Ghosts from the Past

A hobby in the theatre is what I call a ‘crescendo hobby’. Hobbies that aren’t crescendo hobbies remain consistent regarding commitment, enjoyment, stress, hours in attendance, money spent and other themes associated with hobbies. It isn’t the only crescendo hobby. Longest Standing Friend is into archery. Actually, that’s an understatement; since taking up this hobby a few years ago, after deciding her children should do it and she kind of fell into it, she has become so good at it that she represents the country now. (Her children don’t do it anymore. Funny how things work out.) Anyway, I imagine that this is another crescendo hobby, in that one prepares for a contest in the same way that one prepares for a play.
So in the last couple of weeks before the production, all of the above themes started building up to a crescendo . . . As did contact from Wimbledon Man. I didn’t want the latter. What would the crescendo look like, I wondered, not without a hint of anxiety. He’d made contact, which was fine and he’d expressed a wish to see the play, which was also fine. We’d established that he wouldn’t be staying at my house and he agreed that it would be a bad idea, citing his reasons as ‘raging hormones’ and being ‘full of lust’. I wondered if he’d swapped bodies with a spotty adolescent but then he started randomly sending me pictures of himself, so I could see that he wasn’t the victim of some voodoo magic. The pictures added another interesting layer to this strange form of cyber-stalking (still haven’t found out how he knew I’d moved house). Now I have pictures of Wimbledon Man at home, relaxing . . . In the rain, with an umbrella . . . Outside an old-fashioned gypsy caravan. My little Stalker Album is rather like one of those albums you see on Facebook sometimes, of pictures of teddies in different places of interest throughout the world. But I figured that as long as I’m receiving pics of him living his life and not pics of me living my life, then I need not worry. Too much.
Roundabout this time I downloaded Sleep Cycle onto my phone, in order to aid the waking-up process in the morning. One is eased into sleep to the sounds of the sea softly lapping onto shingle and one is eased back into wakefulness to a melodious mix of music in the morning. The app offers a variety of features, including daily graphs which show, as the name suggests, your own personal sleep cycle. I’m not convinced that it isn’t also Rusty’s sleep cycle, seeing as his lack of moulting allows him access onto my bed every night, but it was certainly my sleep cycle whilst Wimbledon Man was messaging me through the night, as my peaks of wakefulness coincided exactly with the times of his messages. I think this would be an apt occasion for use of the expression ‘stream of consciousness’ which is kinda funny seeing as it was while I was not conscious that he sent over the aforementioned ‘stream’. If I liked this guy, like Laurie in Oklahoma!, out of my dreams and into his arms I would have flown by now. But the more love, passion, compliments and kisses (sometimes just a load of kisses. And I mean a LOAD . . . Not just a few) I receive, the less I even want to remain acquainted with him. I have been blunt: ‘I don’t want a relationship with you.’ I told him not to see the play: ‘Don’t come to the play.’ I have been scolding: ‘I told you I was going to sleep yet you continued to message me for another hour and a quarter.’ To be fair, he didn’t come to the play and the nocturnal messages have stopped, but still he messages me every day. I ignore the messages. If they become abusive or he takes up his nocturnal messaging habit again, I will block him. I could block him now, but I feel it is an unnecessary confrontational act and if there is one thing I have learnt from ‘positive handling’ courses (aka restraint training), it is to only use as much force as is required to resolve an issue. Currently, I don’t feel the need to block him and as I still don’t know how he knew about my house move, I favour the softly, softly approach (actually, that description might be pushing it, given my frankness, but I think you get the sentiment).
His resilience would be admirable if it wasn’t creepy. I can take a hint; if I’m ignored for a few days, or there seems to be a lack of interest, or I’m continually starting conversations, then I back off and assume my attention is unwanted. Sometimes I’m wrong, so it’s great. Sometimes I’m not, so I’ve prepared myself. I think it’s fair to call myself easy-going in this respect but of course, if it becomes a pattern of behaviour then even I am inclined to call it a day. I don’t play games. It would be easier, of course, if people were explicit instead of implicit (I think I can assume from accusations of bluntness, that I am the former) but I guess many people are in possession of this misguided notion that it is kinder to be implicit. However, like most people, if someone had sent me the messages that I have sent Wimbledon Man, I would not continue to wear that someone down with romantic advances. Why would anyone do this? Does he think I will fall for his roguish, stalker-esque approach? Does he think that I can be won over by unwanted attention? More importantly, how can anyone demean themselves in this way? Wimbledon Man is attractive. A year ago, when he vaporised from my life, I was sad. I had liked him. But, in the words of Frank Sinatra (and a shedload of other people) I picked myself up, dusted myself off and . . . started seeing the Rastafarian. I forgot about him and evidently, to a degree, he did likewise. We had never had a relationship; we went on a few dates and barely even kissed. So frankly, I’m bemused.
Talking of the Rastafarian, my phone acted as go-between (which is its job, I guess) for him and me also. If my phone could talk (which it can, I guess, but with its own voice like Holly in Red Dwarf) it would be saying, ‘Sorry, but – what is actually going on here Lisa?’ And I would say, in all honesty, ‘I don’t know! But I don’t want either of them! If only I got this much attention from men I actually liked!’ Just to clarify, the Rastafarian had behaved unpleasantly towards my daughter in town when she ran into into him one Saturday night. So whereas I was maintaining a friendship – of sorts – with him before, now I did not want to consort with him. He became enraged at this and whereas I was receiving pure slop from Wimbledon, now I was receiving pure venom from Brighton. Neither was satisfactory. (I realise the unlikelihood of the loan repayment but the chances will reduce to zero if I block him.) I requested an end to the verbal abuse and I got it. He ditched his role of perpetrator and assumed that of victim instead; a fawning, lovesick victim. I marvelled at his ability to change his colours, like a chameleon but I also felt slightly disturbed by it. It was a temporary embargo though, because a pattern emerged: abuse, followed by my request for it to end, then sycophancy. Then it was just the latter . . . Which was an improvement. I found out later on, from Rhiannon, that Joseph had contacted him and asked him to stop the abuse. I’m biased, of course, but my children are the business.
I was supposed to go to my second audition last night, but I was offered a free ticket to see Fish (lead singer of Marillion) in London, so I bailed on the audition and went tripping off the The Big Smoke instead. He performed the whole album of ‘Misplaced Childhood’, including ‘Kayleigh’, which I did not imagine I would hear live, so many years after its first release. Anyway, there is a point to this rather indulgent anecdote (that probably describes my whole blog in fact) which is, that the kind donor of the ticket is a friend from work. There were five of us in total who all met in London (I only knew Work Friend) but we began our journey home together. Two peeled off early on, so then there were three of us. Work Friend decided to tell Other Friend about my theory that all men like porn. I wasn’t expecting to have a private conversation spilled forth on the Victoria Line, to an unfamiliar someone and within earshot of the other passengers who, in keeping with lone passengers, looked suitably catatonic and zombie-like. I was also concentrating on the troubled realisation that my hand was stuck to the pole it had automatically grasped for steadying purposes, because there had been something sticky on the pole. I resisted the urge to move it to a less sticky portion of the pole, my logic being that the stickiness may well be on other parts of the pole and moving it could result in twice the number of germs having a rave on the palm of my hand. So I resolved to leave my hand be and turned my attention to this careless divulgence of my shamefully sexist theory. I was on the verge of retracting said theory, when Other Friend, an unassuming, smiley chap who referred lovingly to his wife and therefore could possibly have blown my theory out of the water just by his existence, said, ‘Yeah. I’d agree with that. I think all men like porn.’ I felt vindicated. Work Friend expected support but I got it instead! After Other Friend left and the party of rock fans was down to just two, Work Friend confessed to feeling disillusioned with men. This surprised me. Assuming you’ve read the entirety of this post and you didn’t just skip to the end, you would probably understand my current (I hope temporary) disillusionment with men, but as Work Friend is one, I guess that proves that even men annoy men from time to time …

Returning to the audition, I didn’t get the part I wanted. Clearly, I didn’t sing Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get I Want loudly enough in the loo when I nipped out to use it halfway through the auditions. But I did get a good part. Singing Sister got Elvira (the part I wanted. No sibling rivalry there) and I got Ruth Condomine. In all seriousness, given that I didn’t bag the title role, I can’t think of a better co-star. We are not unaccustomed to playing rivals in love: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (this got physical, which is fine when it’s your sister because you have actual experiences upon which you can draw) … The Importance of Being Earnest (the famous tea scene) to name but two. I doubt I’ll play Elvira now, because it’ll be a while before it’s on again, but I have been fortunate enough to play a plethora of funny and tragic roles and if my regrets are just a few parts I’ve missed, I’ve led a charmed theatrical life thus far.

A Minor Skirmish

My workplace is set in the midst of breathtaking beauty. The main building is a flint manor house with a low roof and the rest of the school comprises converted barns and other out-buildings in keeping with the olde worlde appeal of village dwellings from a bygone era. We have lunch in a hall that can only be described as a banqueting hall, complete with sturdy wooden beams and small, pretty lead-light windows. We eat at long, wooden, trestle tables and the daily menu complements our charming surroundings. The staff room has French windows which open out onto a patio, which in turn overlooks a small orchard. Down a steep bank, at the top of which is a neat row of Leylandii trees, all standing to attention, is the school field. Beyond that, we are lucky enough to look upon the rolling greenness of the South Downs. We stand alone, apart from the farm behind us.
But countryside abodes have their drawbacks. Like year-round ants. We have ants in the summer. And in the autumn . . . And in the winter . . . And in the spring. As the summer takes a back seat and the days grow shorter and colder, the summer ants die out. And we witness the rise of The Winter Ant. Apparently, we host a rare breed of ant that can survive low temperatures and apparently it is a country thing. This year we have played host to thronging masses of armies of ants. When you make a hot drink and see ants floating carelessly on the surface of your much-needed beverage . . . When you flush the toilet and a waterfall of ants courses down from the rim of the toilet . . . When a student says ‘Miss, there’s like a million ants on the shelf behind you’ . . . It was the last in that list of ant crises that forced me to take matters into my own hands.
In my previous house (the hateful hovel), I had an ant problem. I Googled ‘ants’ on March Against Monsanto and found myself an easy, non-toxic (well, not to the ants but to other livestock like my beloved pets) way to rid my life of the prolific creatures. I’ll take it into work, I decided. And I did. I mixed up an ‘ant potion’ from yeast and honey and gave some to my boss and kept some for me. I felt like an apothecary, with my fastidious mixing and placing in strategic places. It started well; the ants flocked to the mixture and my classes that day were fascinated with the numbers of ants tidily encircling the massive drops of potion on tiny squares of card.
“I can’t believe how many ants are in my classroom,” bemoaned my boss, gazing, slightly distressed, at the ant community greedily guzzling their last meal behind her drawer unit.
“It’ll be worth it,” I assured her, “because they’ll all be gone by tomorrow.”
“Hmm . . . ” she didn’t sound convinced, but this potion had worked within an hour in The Hovel, so I was confident.
My school is a boarding school. So, in the evening, when a typical day school quietens down and breathes a sigh of relief as the last student shuts the door behind them, our school (and others like it) are just gearing up for an evening of boarding fun. Even now, years after I should have grown out of Enid Blyton-esque ideology, I’m still enamoured with the idea of ‘jolly’ pillow fights and ‘scrummy’ midnight feasts. I attended a boarding school, but as a day pupil and begged to be a boarder but understandably, what with living a mere 15 minute drive away, my parents laughed at such a request. This is the third boarding school I’ve taught in which I believe is no coincidence. As is the fact that I positively revelled in the part of Daisy Meredith in ‘Daisy Pulls it Off’, a play written in shameless ‘jolly hockey sticks’ style. Being a boarder is one of the few things you can only do in childhood, so I have accepted that that particular ship has not only sailed but docked in harbour with its anchor firmly on the ocean floor.
So, the point is, my classroom becomes a study room in the evening. The particular houseparent running this operation tends to leave rude messages on my whiteboard, attributing them to a hapless Year 11 student who is exasperated at my firm ‘belief’ that he has written them, seeing as his name is always scrawled at the bottom. (On Leavers’ Day I will assure him that of course I knew his cheeky houseparent framed him every night.) But said houseparent missed a few nights, so I messaged him, berating him for his lack of care and warning him I expected a message tomorrow morning.

‘I can’t get to your whiteboard for the ants,’
he replied.
“Don’t worry,” assured a colleague the following morning, when I was scared to open my classroom door, “You know he’s a wind-up!”
But not this time. The scene in my classroom was like one from a post-apocalyptic disaster movie involving ants. (If there was one.) They had multiplied. There were 1000s of them. The potion hadn’t killed them off: it had attracted them. I’m certain it had decimated them, but of course, dealing with a large area of land with several buildings is rather different from dealing with one’s own house. There was a plentiful supply of the blighters and word had got round, evidently, that the English department had a yummy concoction of yeast and honey on the menu today. Marginally better than rotting apple cores and carelessly strewn banana skins, even if it did swell up inside of your tiny ant tummy and kill you (not certain of the first bit of that, to be honest. As a vegetarian I rather hope the end is less painful). Anxiously, I disposed of the pieces of card which removed the bulk of the trespassers, knowing that I was merely borrowing a small of amount of time in so doing.
Some of our students have 1:1 support staff and this was the case in my first lesson that day. I’m happily wittering on about something – complex sentences perhaps – when I notice her head slowly turn to the side and over to the corner of the classroom, as if she has seen something in her peripheral vision. Then her head stops and her eyes become the biggest I’ve ever seen eyes become and this strange phenomenon is accompanied by a screech, which eventually forms the words:
” There’s an army of them! Marching across the floor!”
And she was right. It doesn’t take much for teenagers to become distracted – especially ours – so in a moment they are all in the corner of my classroom, checking to verify her claim. There it was – a long line of them, marching backwards and forwards, collecting bits of the potion I’d missed – the potion that was almost responsible for world ant domination. You couldn’t easily make them out before – they blended with the carpet – but now we knew they were there, it was all we could see.
I had to admit defeat. Victory was theirs. At least, for now. It was time to summon the experts: The Maintenance Men. They arrived at the close of the school day, fully equipped with Ant Annihilation gear to blast the invaders into eternal oblivion. And it worked. There was carnage the following Monday, before the cleaners had had a chance to clear up the spoils of war. Dead ants lined the skirting board. Defeated. Until another army in a far corner of the neighbouring farm silently prepared for the next assault . . .

The Play

I have no idea if other actors feel similarly to me about technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals. After weeks (or maybe months) of practising, those last two all-important rehearsals are vital (in my opinion) for injecting some kind of magic into the dramatic offering. The switching off of the lights in the venue and the lighting up of the stage, somehow bring the proceedings to life. Real life is plunged into darkness and the fantasy world of the play becomes a reality. Occasionally there may be a voice from the dark, usually the director’s and it really seems other-worldly. Without an audience, there’s a kind of surreality about these rehearsals. It almost makes the play seem more like real life; as if we’ve all just got together one evening to live different lives for a couple of hours. There’s no audience, so we’re not doing it for anyone, so we must be doing it for ourselves.
Then the curtain goes up on the first night. I don’t get nervous. I mean, I have felt nervous, but not very often. I was nervous when I played Lady Helen Walsingham in Half a Sixpence, but it was in The Dome and I worried about coming on from the wrong bit of the wings because the stage was so massive. I was in many a musical in The Dome, but usually as an all-singing, all-dancing member of the chorus so I had company if I screwed up. Also, I had problems with my radio mike, the transmitter of which was underneath layers of period skirt. Several times I left the stage, only to be accosted by the radio mike man en route to my dressing room, who thought it was ok to rummage around amongst the layers of satin to find my mike to fix it. When one has a jealous fiancé (which I did at the time) this type of scenario is one big headache. One of the other nerve-inducing experiences was when I used to compere Brighton Cares, a big charity show that was held annually at The Brighton Centre and this time I had a hand-held mike, the cable of which succeeded in tripping me up as I tried to wiggle sexily up the steps on the side of the stage. I actually slid across the stage on my front, laddering my tights in the process. Fortunately, this was at the dress rehearsal, but by the time the evening performance arrived, I was almost catatonic with fear. Compering is one of the most terrifying tasks I have ever undertaken. What I love about acting is the fact that I am playing a role, usually vastly different from my own persona. But when you compere, you are exposed as you. Just you. No wacky character to hide behind . . . Just your own personality in all its nakedness.
So anyway, apart from those occasions and some plays where maybe I haven’t felt entirely happy with my part or the play in general, I don’t suffer from nerves. I haven’t enjoyed the rare occasions when I have felt nervous, but I wonder if I’m missing out on an extra shot of adrenaline by not feeling those first night wobbles that my fellow thespians feel. I wonder if they have an extra edge to their performance . . . An extra sparkle . . . because they’re feeling a little fizzy.
But despite my lack of nerves, I had a ball. It was great to be back on stage after a break of two or three years; well, a platform next to the stage anyway, given that we weren’t really in the play, just providing some jolly war songs to both lengthen and lighten the performances of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. It was a tough week at work – I’d put out a plea to my students to behave so I didn’t have to talk so much and I told them I wouldn’t be talking as much as usual, which would be a good thing because most teachers talk too much anyway. Obviously, this was in an attempt to preserve my singing voice but I really don’t think I talked any less to be honest. The play was well-received and I was pleased I did something a little different. It was supposed to be a one-off occurrence, as I have felt for some time now that I have moved on from the theatre . . . But tonight I found myself wandering back down to the village to audition for their next play: Blithe Spirit. I have long held a desire to be in a production of this dark-humoured play, so although I wonder if I can spare the time, I felt this was an opportunity I shouldn’t miss. Because actually, opportunities don’t get lost; someone else takes them. I have missed three opportunities to go to the Edinburgh Festival so I feel somewhat an expert on this matter.
Round two of the audition process takes place on Friday, so watch this space . . .

Telscombe Tye

Back in the early 1800s, Telscombe Tye was known by locals as Sheep Down. Back in my early childhood, it was known by me as Telscombe Tide. Years later, when studying language acquisition, I would come to realise that I was bringing my wealth – or lack – of knowledge to this conundrum to try to make sense of my world. It didn’t look like my tie I wore for kindergarten (yes, I had to wear a tie for kindergarten) and I couldn’t relate the word to the verb ‘to tie’, so I was baffled. You could see the sea from the strip of South Downs nestling between Saltdean and Telscombe, so it must have been ‘Tide’. I wasn’t wholly satisfied with this conclusion, but it was the best I could do with three years of experience of the world.

In time, I became more accepting and realised that names didn’t have to appear to connect to anything. But then I studied Latin and my desire to dig around amongst the roots of words reached nerd proportions. I wouldn’t flatter myself by suggesting I’m a full-blown nerd but I do have this sort of etymological hangover lingering from several years of studying Latin (just don’t ask me what ablative absolutes are – I never did get them and the mention of them increases my heart rate to this day. But I’ve survived thus far without this elusive piece of information, so really, it’s fine). And now I’ve ditched my lenses, I am finding myself looking over my glasses at students and adjusting them whilst indulging in lengthy explanations about anything. Maybe it’s time to resurrect the lenses . . . I would hate to be accused of suffering from ‘bad faith’.

Back to Telscombe Tye. When I was five, my parents bought a horse called Flipper. Really. I mean, he wasn’t a crime-fighting dolphin; he was a proper horse with legs and a mane. He was a Connemara shipped over from Ireland and the story goes that he was the only livestock on the voyage that didn’t suffer from seasickness, hence the name. I never thought about horses feeling queasy on the ocean waves but then again, I never thought about them sailing so I guess our Flipper was pretty special. He was big, but when you’re five, most things seem big. And as we are not known for our immensity in our family, I was quite a small five year old. So I didn’t ride him as much as my older (and therefore bigger) sisters and when I did, the words pea and drum probably came to most people’s minds and I remember toppling off a lot. It was pure physics, really. I had learnt to ride before we acquired him, on a Shetland, who was more in keeping with my size, although he was a stallion, so I tumbled off him a good deal too. So anyway, I cannot recall the first time I parted company from my steed, which might be a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a thing. In fact, I cannot recall the first time I was ever on a horse, which is a bit of a shame. I bet it was awesome.

Ah . . . I misled you. I’ve drifted away from Telscombe Tye. Ok. Not only was Flipper a capable sailor, but also he was an admirable escapologist. His prowess in jumping out of fields was unmatched. He even jumped out of stables sometimes. He could do ‘cat jumps’ from a standstill and when I was a little older and my legs had grown sufficiently to be more vertical and less horizontal whilst riding him, I remember the teeth-gritting determination in getting him over a jump, lest he refused at the last moment, because actually he rarely refused, he just enjoyed skidding to a halt sometimes, so he could leap from a standstill which, frankly, I found terrifying as the leap would be twice as high as that from a canter. This is where my drifting drifts to the point. Flipper escaped onto Telscombe Tye once. (By this time I knew it was a ‘Tye’ and not a ‘Tide’.) He had his field-mate with him, a horse called William and sadly, the latter did not survive this particular adventure as their naughty trip into the countryside took them, ultimately, onto a busy road. Whereas Flipper did not suffer physically, the experience clearly scarred him as he became traffic-shy as a result of the tragedy.

I associated Telscombe Tye with this sad episode for years, until moving to a house which is a five minute walk away and now it has become Rusty’s favourite waste of time (meant in the nicest possible way). I usually take the same path across the Tye which ultimately leads to the old village of Telscombe. (By the way, ‘Tye’ is an archaic word meaning an area of common land. I have lost count of how many words there are for areas of land.) It is an ancient highway known as Old Funeral Road because pre-20th century, it was used for funeral processions. It was used also for more nefarious activities at this time, as it was a perfect route for smugglers to transport illegal items inland from the beach at Saltdean Gap. Apart from the smuggling (I think!) very little has changed in the last 100 years about the old village of Telscombe. There is no public road by which one can reach it and the population is around 50. Earliest records date back to the 10th century and it owes its preserved state to a racehorse trainer called Ambrose Gorham who lived in Stud Farm in Telscombe at the turn of the 20th century. In 1902, his horse, Shannon Lass, unexpectedly won the Grand National. He used his winnings to expand his racehorse training business so that it dominated the village. He put money into refurbishing the church, providing amenities for apprentice jockeys and improving buildings. He left everything to Brighton Corporation when he died, on the condition that the area was preserved.

Telscombe Cliffs, although in close proximity, does not join onto Telscombe. It has a population of around 4,500 and Telscombe Tye curves protectively around it on the west and the north, the sea on the south and the rest of Peacehaven on the east.

If Rusty could talk, he would tell you that Telscombe Tye is the best because it’s all grass, with no hard pebbles to hurt his paws. He would add that the choice of poo in which to roll is second-to-none. It was particularly quiet when we strolled along there today, so I felt I could practise the seven war songs being provided by myself, Singing Sister and Friend in Rottingdean’s forthcoming play, without risking judgement from others. Not of my singing, but of my sanity. I walked alongside a fence, whilst trilling the jaunty tones of Don’t Fence Me In and inwardly chuckled at the coincidence. I sang and inwardly chuckled for too long, though, because when I looked back to check on my canine companion, he was in the throes of euphoria, or in the smelliest poo, to be more literal. It was too late and I was too far from him to shoo him away, so I turned away and pretended to have missed it. Other animals’ excrement is to dogs, in my opinion, what catnip is to cats. The pleasure Rusty gains from plastering himself in waste matter would be a joy to behold if the means wasn’t so very far from justifying the end. A woman who was shouting distance away from me, called over:

“He’s such a happy dog!”

He was as far from her as I was, so he really was spreading the cheer, having spread something nasty all over his torso. He did look very skittish. I laughed and called back to her that yes, he was. I added quietly so she didn’t hear that he was high on animal poo. He must have understood her, as he then dashed across to greet her like an old friend. Before I could say ‘poo’ she was down at his level, making a fuss and didn’t seem to mind that she was transferring traces of green (yes, green) poo onto her hands.

I don’t think that I will ever succeed in training Rusty not to roll in poo. I’ll stop him if I can, but I’ve given up scolding him. The iciness of the hose is probably punishment enough, although he is treated to a warm bath if I am unlucky enough and he is lucky enough to find fox poo for his ‘legal dog high’. Today it was the hose, which makes his normally perky tail drop down miserably. But it soon popped up again and curled over his back, as it does when all is well with his doggy world, when he got to play with his best friend, my parents’ dog. Singing Sister and I had a singing practice while they bounced around, taking time out occasionally to sing the ‘howling’ lines of our songs.

Then we panicked generally about the play edging closer and closer into reality, by actually being less than a week away and so I left to get my hair cut by the Italian because it seemed like a good idea.

P.S. Looked up ablative absolutes and I think they are just subordinate clauses. Ah . . . My life is richer.

Imprisonment

The children returned to their uni houses before the end of the Easter break. Independent living clearly suited them, so I had a week at home alone.
I needed to unpack the remaining boxes which were responsible for my bedroom being an assault course. Did it have carpet? No idea. Half the house was in my room. I took my life into my hands every night when I went to bed and every morning when I got up. The time had come to empty it, as my new bed was due to arrive soon.
I spent whole days in that room, painstakingly picking my way through boxes, bags and a generalised chaos. The play for which I was providing musical interludes, along with 2 others, (Singing Sister and a friend) loomed and I was starting to feel the tension, so I rehearsed while I cleared. The harmonious sounds of wartime celebrities like The Andrews Sisters wafted from my iPad and I sang wartime numbers such as Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer, Don’t Fence Me In, You Belong to Me . . . Over, over and over again until the words were cemented into my memory. At the end of one such day, I sat down, enervated from relentless sorting, singing and tidying and whereas I thought half an hour had passed, in actual fact, 2 hours had passed.
Halfway through the ‘going to bed’ ritual, I needed a glass of water. I turned the doorknob of my bedroom door . . . And turned . . . And turned . . . Feeling slightly panicked, I pushed the door but of course it remained firmly shut. The doorknob on the other side had come off earlier and as the wood around it had broken, it couldn’t easily be screwed back in. As a temporary measure, I shoved it back onto the metal rod that connected the two doorknobs, but it must have come off on the other side, possibly taking the rod with it, therefore rendering the inner doorknob useless.
I sat on my bed (well, mattress, until the bed arrived) in order to allow this information to settle in my very tired brain that really didn’t want to be dealing with unexpected entrapments in one’s bedroom. I was well-equipped for a spontaneous incarceration: the dog had followed me in, so I wouldn’t have to deal with his rising levels of anguish outside the bedroom door (and possible scratch-marks on the wood); I had my phone, so I could call for help if desperation set in; I was still clutching my iPad, complete with charger, to power-up overnight, so I had entertainment; I was blessed with an en-suite toilet; the previous people left a 42in TV screwed to the wall, for which they apologised profusely and magnanimously, I forgave them, so I had access to even more avenues of entertainment; I had a copy of Oryx and Crake, borrowed from my son, to read so boredom was not a possibility (but crises are rarely boring, to be fair). And of course, I was in my bedroom, so I could at least sleep in my prison. The option of ignoring this predicament until the morning by pretending that the door was merely closed, was an appealing one, but I figured that I would struggle to sleep, knowing that I was trapped. Planning my escape without a fire raging was preferable over waking up to my charging iPad having set the room alight and me remembering that I chose sleep over The Great Escape. Not quite as dramatic, of course, as there is no barbed wire around my bedroom and I am not in possession of a motorbike. But the point was, I felt an overwhelming desire to release myself.
But how?
Ah . . . I’ll status on Facebook, I thought; one of my genius friends is bound to be awake at twenty-five minutes to two in the morning, having a lightbulb moment. They can come up with some plan for me involving a credit card and a spoon or something. Not that I had either in the bedroom with me. One of my Canadian cousins was awake and helpful (after reacting with a ‘Haha’ which is fair enough – I would have done the same) and a local friend was awake and willing to come round to help. Both offered advice involving firemen and coat hangers and the former was tempting, if the stereotype exists, but I wanted to attempt to break out first. My bedroom is the only ground floor one in the house, so I was able to escape from my room by climbing out of the window. But then, of course, I would be locked out of the house. I decided that brushing my teeth would be my next step. I’d have to brush them at some point, it was one of the few things I could do and if I needed to call the emergency services after breaking out of my own house, I may as well have clean teeth.
Whilst I brushed, I deliberated over my method of breaking in and came up with one or two ideas . . . So, armed with my phone and fresh breath, I set about the break-out. Now, my bedroom still had, as yet unpacked, boxes. I had to move these from the floor under the window in order to access it. Everything going according to plan so far . . . Now I needed to reveal the window which meant raising the blinds. Historically, I have a poor relationship with blinds. They baffle me. I can see that there are two ways in which to move them: one involves turning them so they allow horizontal lines of light to enter the room and the other involves them moving up from the bottom so that they are flat against each other at the top of the window like a flattened concertina. It is the second movement that vexes me. Either, one end only rises so it becomes an OCD nightmare, or the whole lot goes up together, fooling me into thinking all is well with the world (or the blinds, at least), only to come crashing back down again when I fail to ‘fix’ them in a concertina position. But these blinds came up with a new form of vexation for me: they went up an inch at a time, becoming fixed after said inch, all the way up. So I got into a sort of pattern of pulling, fixing, releasing and so on and so forth. Clearly, I was doing something wrong, but I was tired and as I can never figure out the wretched things, I was past caring. I noticed they had yet another quirk in that they sagged in the middle, rather than at an end. Then, when they had almost made it to the top, and I was giving one last tug on the strings, there was a sickening ‘crack’ and I fell back onto boxes as everything came away from its fittings and landed on me.
I managed to hold it together and calmly placed the baffling – and now broken – blinds to one side, climbed onto the windowsill and opened the window. It opened a couple of inches . . . Then I remembered the survey: ‘Downstairs windows not British Standards’. This probably wouldn’t even be remembered by most people, because most people don’t end up climbing out of their non-BS windows (or BS windows, as I was starting to feel quite hostile towards these windows and their false promises of opening sufficiently to let me out). I started to force it, thinking it might be stiff, but on looking at the mechanism, I could see a hole where there probably should have been a thing and there was a strange sound emanating from this poorly window which almost sounded like a plea for mercy. Gently, I eased the pressure and slowly closed it, imagining it sighing with relief. I climbed off the sill and sat on my bed, allowing a few tears to spill onto my iPad as I checked for more advice. Local Friend was insistent upon helping out, which was a comfort and Canadian Cousin was offering practical advice. Both were keeping my spirits up, which was the best thing of all. I decided to try the other window, hoping it was not as broken as the first one and off I went. I opened it and it opened a little more than the other one, possibly enough for me to squeeze through. I climbed up onto the sill, placed my phone outside of the window, on the outside sill and began my escape. The drop to the ground was surprisingly high; I would have to slide down and even jump a little, maybe. Tentatively, I began to slither down the wall – there was a fearful moment when my jeans caught on the window hinge at the bottom of the frame, but I pulled sufficiently for them to snap off. The journey down the wall took longer than anticipated, but at some point I was losing my grip so I jumped. I had nearly reached the ground, so all was well. The break-in was straightforward (can’t give that away) and within minutes I was back in the bedroom with the door wedged OPEN, not to be closed again until the doorknob was fixed.
It was around 2.30am by this time and after announcing to my supporters on FB that I had succeeded in breaking out of my house and then breaking back in, I crawled into bed. I fell asleep immediately. I know this because a ‘ping’ from my phone woke me . . . And then another . . . And another. The third offending ‘ping’ woke me adequately for me to sit up and address this ‘pinging’ and it was around half an hour since my adventure had drawn to a close.
Wimbledon Man.
The next morning I addressed Wimbledon Man’s late night messaging. This was not the first time his messages had woken me, so I sent some frank messages telling him not to message me so late and maybe he shouldn’t see the play, but if he did, he couldn’t stay at my house.
He accepted everything. He apologised and said he agreed that he should make other arrangements, admitting that he wanted more than friendship, but he would like to see the play. I expected a row, or another severing of friendship, but I got contrition. So I couldn’t complain.
I went to sleep that night knowing I wouldn’t be woken by pointless messages from a hormone-driven man from Wimbledon. I got a phone call instead. At 4.30am. This wasn’t Wimbledon Man, though – this was the police. Getting a call from a police officer at an anti-social hour is unpleasant but, I was so sleepy, I didn’t have time to panic. He asked me if I was the Rastafarian’s girlfriend. No, I told him. Ah, he cogitated this information, but you know him? I told him that I did and he asked if I’d been with him that night. I said that I’d been in a pub where there was an Open Mic evening and he’d been there too. I’d left around midnight, whereas he’d stayed. I asked if he was ok and he said he’d been punched on the nose. Then one of us went – or maybe I fell asleep – my phone was still in my hand when I woke up the following morning. The next time I saw him I felt I’d earned the right, from my 4.30 awakening, to quiz him. He had a slightly bent nose with a cut where it looked like his glasses had been shoved into his face and as he wasn’t wearing them, I guessed the fist in the face had broken them as well as his skin. I also noticed tell-tale marks around his wrists where clearly he’d been handcuffed. I asked why they called me to ask me if I’d been with him and he claimed not to know. He also claimed to have been randomly punched in the face, yet admitted he’d spent the night in the cells. I’d never know, but I said I didn’t appreciate the late-night call and he apologised, whilst handing me a chain from a silver crucifix I’d given him once. It was twisted and he explained they took it from him, along with all his jewellery, cutting off his rings and bracelets. Tempted to keep it, instead I untwisted it and returned it to him, for which he was grateful.

People

The Cabaret Pub had replaced The Folky Pub in my affection. It was probably temporary, but for the moment I was enjoying its continued offerings of music which seemed to happen most nights of the week. As well as the upstairs venue which, hence my name for the pub, was set up like a cabaret bar, there was a downstairs venue which was set up in a more homely fashion. As it had been a cellar, there was a low ceiling which immediately gave it an intimacy and there were even a few comfy armchairs dotted around. I preferred the cabaret feel of the upstairs bar, but was happy to go to wherever the music was, as the quality was generally good.
I noticed a friend had ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook. It wasn’t someone I’d dated, so it wasn’t an ‘unfriending’ beset with emotion or for effect. It was a female and I was still friends with her partner, whom I barely knew, but whose request to link on Facebook I had accepted, because I would have felt awkward about refusing it. I’m not one to always feel righteous in these situations, so I reflected on what may have led to the Facebook link being severed and I could recall nothing. My last interaction with her was the planning of a blind date with a single male friend of hers, which I had ultimately cancelled because after my Tinder experiences, I had about as much interest in contrived romantic set-ups as a cat has in a trip to the beach. I had joined her for a meal out with her friends and apart from her and her partner, there had been 1 or 2 people there that I vaguely knew, so despite my reservations about not knowing anyone, it had been a pleasant evening. I felt wholly unsatisfied with my pondering over this and started to feel a little maligned. I have to accept this, I concluded. Pre-Facebook, you just got a feeling that there was bad air between you and a friend, or you heard you’d upset them. Or if the friendship was valued, one party would confront the issue (whatever it was) head-on with the other. But now, there is the risk that you will quietly discover your friendship has been lethally sliced in two with no explanation. I had noticed her lack of posts and I had planned to message her. But then her partner tagged her in a post and, realising that I should have seen the post twice, I checked and saw the hostile ‘Add friend’ button where there should have been a happy tick and a reassuring ‘Friends’ button. Ah well. Wimbledon Man still hadn’t unblocked me which was just plain odd, given his renewed interest in me and apologies for impetuosity. But I was already growing bored of his daily ‘how are you’ messages which were the reason for my bluntness towards him in the first place, which brought about (I believe) the whole unfriending and blocking situation.

The Easter holiday had brought ample opportunity for furniture shopping, for which I’d budgeted in the selling and buying of property because beds and sofas are fairly necessary. The four of us (Rhiannon joined us for the excursion) had ventured out to suitable shops for this purpose and so relevant furniture had been chosen and was on its way. Halfway through the shopping trip, we stopped wearily for lunch and I had my first experience of Nando’s, which probably ought to have happened before the onslaught of vegetarianism in the family but there was typical veggie fare such as halloumi available. Rhiannon had returned to carnivorous ways so along with Hannah, ate chicken with relish (both sorts) while Joseph and I enjoyed the veggie menu. All that was left now was perpetual worry that the right choices had been made regarding the furniture. I can always put a throw over the sofa, I thought. And who cares what my bed looks like.
One morning, when Rhiannon had returned to her uni house because of illness (probably pharyngitis, which is what you get when your throat wants you to have tonsillitis but you’ve had your tonsils removed) and Joseph and Hannah were having an Easter holiday lie-in, the Rastafarian messaged me and invited me over for a morning coffee. Being at a loose end, I went and his sister was there. The more I chatted to his sister, the more I liked her. Their physical resemblance was startling, but I could see that their personalities were very different. I had considered her grumpy and unwelcoming initially, but unlike the Rastafarian, she took some time to ‘warm up’. We chatted about chocolate, church, where I lived, coffee and she said that she would give me some Rwandan coffee next time I saw her. I told her about my penchant for good coffee and how I had fresh whole beans delivered once a fortnight, so I could grind my own coffee in the grinder that my children had bought for me for my last birthday. The last despatch happened to be from Rwanda (it was random every time) and it wasn’t that strong, but of course that was just one type, so maybe her coffee would be richer.
I was keen to return home, to cook breakfast for my guests, but I had agreed to take the Rastafarian into town. He was taking his usual eternity to leave the house (I have never witnessed anyone – male or female – take so long to get ready both physically and mentally. He had to look good, have eaten and drunk, listened to reggae and then relaxed, before even putting his shoes on). Finally, we left. In the car, he said:

“What do you think? My sister, she tell me off for asking you for money!”

She had witnessed him asking me for money in town, while I was at the nail bar.

“Well, it’s fair enough,” I replied, deliberately harshly and without a shred of the sympathy he clearly desired.

“You do things for me, I do things for you,” he attempted a justification of his resentful feelings.

“But you don’t do things for me!” I argued, with a derisive laugh. Whereas I was growing pessimisitic about ever having my loan repaid, I wasn’t going to allow him to imagine that I had forgotten about it.

His reply was a definite ‘harrumph’. I could have left it there, but I was curious . . .

“So, she doesn’t know about the 2k you owe me?”

“God, no!”

This was interesting news. Maybe she could help me. If she knew, she might hold some sway as his big, bossy sister in returning it to me? I stored the information for possible future use.
The conversation changed, to weather talk, which struck me as funny, as it is such a British pastime. He suggested I join him on the beach in the sun. I explained that I wanted to spend time with Joseph and Hannah before they returned, but that I intended popping into town later and would have some time on my hands whilst waiting for my laundry to wash, so if it was sunny, I may as well spend that time on the beach in the sun. He said that he looked forward to that and that was how we left it.
When that time came, he did not respond to his messages. He did not respond to my calls. This was not an unusual scenario, but as long as I didn’t hear news of a fatal stabbing on the beach or something similar, then it was all fine. I recalled a time during our relationship when, on waking one Saturday morning, I had missed calls from him and messages to call him, between 2 and 4 in the morning. I called him and messaged him, but to no avail. I went into town, only to be greeted with white tape in one of the main shopping streets (where I knew he had been out and about the night before) and on asking in a local shop, it transpired that a man had been stabbed at around 3 in the morning. Still, I failed to make contact with him, so I went to his flat. His flat-mate answered and I was relieved to see the Rastafarian sleeping soundly and definitely alive. My concern changed to anger and when he woke up, he couldn’t give me a good reason as to why he had been trying to contact me in the small hours. The other thing he couldn’t do, was understand my distress.
“You’re checking me out,” he said, meaning that I was checking up on him. He always made that mistake.

“In a way,” I had admitted, “but to see if you were alive!”

“You don’t trust me,” he had accused.

“Well, no, but we’ve established that and this isn’t about that. It’s about your welfare.”
He would go AWOL, so to speak, on occasion and his excuse that his phone died was well-worn. Sometimes I would catch him out, by pointing out that Whatsapp had given him away by declaring that he had been ‘active’ when his phone had supposedly died. Or I would suggest that he couldn’t have been home, otherwise he’d have charged his phone, so where had he been for 2 days? Where had he slept? ‘I forgot to charge my phone’, he would claim, on occasion, an obvious lie, as his phone was as important to him as one of his limbs.
It was vital to my recovery from the relationship to remember these things.

Easter

Communication from Wimbledon Man was not expected. I let my phone be for a while, thinking that it would be prudent to allow some time to pass before replying. After all, he had unfriended me on Facebook. In fact, he had blocked me on Facebook. Maybe I wouldn’t reply at all. I was busy trying to find a YouTube channel for a the amazing guitarist from The Folky Pub (and failing) anyway.

Time passed.

I replied.

I told him that I was well, thank you for asking, and how was he? He told me that he was well too and that he worked for the Pope.

‘The Pope? Good Lord (no pun intended).’
He did not elaborate on this but he did say that he had missed me. I pointed out that he had been the one to unfriend and block me, to which he said that he was sorry, he got upset and it was stupid of him to do so. I said that it was fine and I inserted a ‘lol’ so he knew that I meant it and that it wasn’t a ‘fine’ that is said through gritted teeth. He asked after the chicken and we had a laugh about that, then if I wanted to see him. I said that that would be nice, but I made it clear that I was not interested in a romantic meeting. He seemed OK with this, so we left it there . . .
I paid the Italian a visit the following morning to sort out my hair. He was nifty with the scissors/colour/dryer/whatever else I fancied and he cut me a good deal (pardon the pun) usually throwing in a little extra for nothing, such as an Indian head massage or a hot conditioning treatment, which was today’s freebie. And he did exactly as I asked, whilst providing honest advice. I had cut corners with my hair for so long (sorry – and that one) due to watching my pennies, but currently, I felt the need to put my hair in the hands of an expert and it was reassuring to know that someone else was taking decisions over my barnet.
Joseph was home with Hannah, which was lovely. They had loaded my car with bits of a wardrobe and so after the Italian had worked his magic, I went to the tip with shiny, sashaying hair. I hope the guys at the tip appreciated my effort. Rhiannon had put in an appearance on the day of Joseph’s and Hannah’s arrival, but had returned to her uni house for partying purposes. We were due to meet again for furniture purchases for the new house on Tuesday, so things were taking shape.
On that Saturday night, however, the evening before Easter Sunday, I delivered Joseph and Hannah to a pub to watch a football match and turned my attention towards a showcase night that was happening in a pub in the centre of the city. The Rastafarian had asked me if I would like to go; he was supposed to be playing there around 8. As it was heading towards that time, I pulled over to message him to enquire as to the whereabouts of said pub, as I hadn’t a clue.
‘I don’t remember.. Check online babe..’ was his cavalier reply.
‘So you’re not there yet? I’ll come and get you. Better than sitting on my own in a pub for an hour,’ I replied, rather brusquely.
But strangely, he did not want that.
‘I’m going home then,’ I threatened.
‘No – no – Hun, no! Please . . . Meet me.’
But his abject fear of my collecting him both vexed and rankled with me. I wouldn’t even have known where to go – he was visiting a friend, so he said. Unless he had lied and was actually at home with someone he did not want me to meet . . .

‘Let me collect you or I’m going home,’ was my final offer.
I sat in the car for a minute or two, waiting for a reply. Then I looked at my nice top, my freshly applied make-up, my coiffed hair and thought I’d go anyway. I don’t have a problem with going to pubs on my own, I remembered . . . It was Saturday night – what else would I do? So I looked up the whereabouts of this pub and it turned out that I did know it.
‘Don’t go – come on – I’m sorry – please,’
I’d already parked round the corner from said pub, which was near to The Cosmopolitan Bar I had enjoyed visiting for Open Mic nights during our relationship. It was in a street which housed a multitude of pubs, bars and restaurants and was one which my mother had told me to avoid as a child, but where I had stumbled into kebab joints as a teenager in the early hours after heavy clubbing, with friends.
‘I’m here,’ I reassured him on the one hand, ‘but because I want to be here and I won’t necessarily wait for you,’ I clarified my position on the other hand.
‘Where is it?’ he asked and I wondered how serious he had ever been about playing here on this wet and windy night, which was discouraging me from venturing beyond the dry warmth of my car, where my hair would stay looking coiffed, but no-one would see it but me.
I told him it was the cosy pub with the roaring fire that he had taken me to once and he got it.
I wandered in and the music was not apparent. There was an amp and a mike, but nothing was happening. I went to the bar and before I could say ‘half a Guinness and black’, a big-built chap with curly, sandy-coloured hair, put out his hand by way of introduction and said,
“Hi. Simon.”
“Oh. Er-” the barmaid was awaiting my instruction, “half a Guinness and black please!”
I was still holding his hand.
“Sorry – I’m Lisa!”
I smiled and returned the hand to Simon.
He had a serious face and the swiftness with which he had introduced himself made me feel awkward. I hadn’t had time to settle in my surroundings, buy my drink or decide where to sit. The barmaid took my money while the Guinness took its usual eternity to pour (for which I am grateful – an inexperienced barman did not let my Guinness settle the other day before finishing it off and it was, frankly, sub-standard. I would have complained but friends had taken me there and I didn’t want to offend anyone). She handed me my poured-to-perfection beverage and rather than face the discomfort of an obvious rebuff, I asked the barmaid to watch my drink while I went to the Ladies’. And off I went. And it worked. I returned and Simon of the sandy hair had gone. I chose a table where the Rastafarian would see me when (if) he turned up and I could watch him perform.
“Are you meeting someone here?” sandy-haired Simon was next to me.
“Yes,” I replied as I removed the big specs, wondering if he just liked me for my glasses.
However, he was unfazed by my spectacle-free visage. I did not feel even slightly romantically inclined towards him, but when, after a considerable amount of time of clearly chatting me up, he announced that he had a wife and 2 children, I did not feel even slightly friendly towards him. An icicle from my newly frozen aura must have poked him in the ribs and pushed him back to his friend, whom he had seriously neglected anyway, and who was going through some trauma, according to Simon’s information.
“Are you playing?” Simon had been replaced by a young, studenty looking chap.
“No – watching,”
“Ah – well, the PA’s packed up so that’s it.”
I’d heard 2 songs and with that the Rastafarian was there. We chatted for a bit, about many things, including the cross I had given him (along with the letter) which I had made out of a palm from church on Palm Sunday.

“You are funny,” he smiled, “giving me a cross a week early!”

It was times such as these that made me doubt his claims of being a devout Catholic. (Not that that was a problem in itself, of course, but it was, potentially, another example of economy with the truth.) Sunday was exactly a week before Easter and was a remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey for Passover, when crowds threw palm leaves on the ground in front of him as a mark of respect. Most Catholics would know this, I’m sure, but a devout one who called his flat a church because of the altar he had in his lounge, would be able to recount the story I’m sure, with more detail than someone who had not attended a catholic school and whose church attendance as a child had been sketchy. Walter Mitty would have been a more appropriate pseudonym for this character.

“No,” I stated, “it was Palm Sunday.”

“Yes, yes,” he agreed, but I wasn’t convinced.

I didn’t want to argue over religion and in an effort to lighten the conversation, I related an anecdote of how I had become the unofficial cross-maker at church, every Palm Sunday. I didn’t know if my way was the correct way, but I enjoyed perfecting the art every year and providing people with their home-made crosses. He didn’t seem to identify with the story at all, so either he had bigged up his piety, or things really were different in Rwanda. But anyway, he remained chilled and talkative, happily allowing me to touch on topics that normally would bring about a stern look, as if I had blown his cover as a field agent. The shift from ‘relationship’ to ‘friendship’ was a positive move. Eventually I left, as it was getting late and I left him there, apparently with no money.

The next day was Easter Sunday. The sugar drought was over! But actually, I wasn’t that enamoured with the notion of gorging on sugary goodies hitherto banned since Pancake Day. I had included myself in the purchase of chocolate eggs, but disaster had befallen the Easter treats. I went to Mass on Good Friday, forgetting that they were in the boot of the car. It was a sunny day, so I parked under some trees, where they would be safe from the sun’s welcome (unless you’re chocolate or snow) rays. I came out of the church, only to be greeted with a parking ticket, which was unexpected. I thought I was allowed to park there on Bank Holidays. Damn, I thought, replacement eggs would have been cheaper! I went home, feeling piqued. Then, some time later, I ventured out to walk the dog . . . No. I’d still left the eggs in the car! They had melted. Tenderly, I transported them into the house and with great care I deposited them in the fridge to reform. One of them was so deformed that I revealed it a couple of days before Easter whilst Joseph, Hannah and myself were watching a movie and they fancied some movie sustenance. The other was just a little sunken at the back, but passable. Rhiannon’s turned out to be ok, just with slightly malformed chocolates. But mine . . . Oh dear. It had a white bloom and was actually crumbly. It felt like wax in my mouth and was so disgusting that even the dog was sick when he ate a morsel that fell his way (onto the floor, because, of course, as Snoopy says, everything that falls onto the floor is rightfully the dog’s). Just in case anyone wants to tell me that this is a dog’s usual reaction to chocolate, he has pinched chocolate before and been unaffected. Although I have heard an alarming rumour that Cadbury has changed its recipe. If my chocolate egg was a result of this, it is a gloomy prospect indeed . . .

Friends

The softness of the following day was slightly sullied by the knowledge that the Rastafarian had not read my letter. I was enjoying his friendship yet I felt a sadness in my stomach because I knew that once he’d read my brutal frankness, the dynamics of our relationship would shift once more.
The following day I received a message – a simple ‘call me’ and I wondered if he’d finally read it. Was he angry? Should I mentally equip myself for a bitter verbal onslaught? But would he ask me to call him if he was cross? Wouldn’t he ignore me? Or send a barbed message? There was a simple way to find out . . . Following his instructions and calling him.
I was glad I’d anticipated a sad ending. Some of the sweetest moments in life are those for which we are caught napping.
“I’ve read your letter,” he announced.
“Ok . . . ” I waited for his take on my inner monologue which I had allowed to spill forth onto 5 pages. Handwritten.
“You have good handwriting,” he complimented.
I hadn’t removed the armour yet. This could have been a warm, mellow lure to melt my wall of protection.
“Thank-you,” I managed.
“Yes . . . ” he continued.
“I get all of that. I have been through a lot. I accept it all.”
Mentioning his traumas was a shrewd decision, it would seem. He accepted all his shortcomings, even if he blamed them on his past.
To say I was taken aback does not even convey a tenth of how I felt about his humility; I had been pushed to the frayed ends of patience with the Rastafarian and the letter was a last attempt to alert him to my emptying cup of tolerance. Yet he’d pulled our friendship back. He was emotionally capable of being self-effacing and taking blame.
That night he was playing at a bar I had not visited before. I was happy to go and he was being particularly lovely, but I didn’t enjoy the venue: it was a large, echoey, rectangular room with bright, tacky lighting. There were some small tables around the edge which were taken or reserved and so I sat at one of the large tables which were placed down the centre of the room, like an army marching forward towards the bay window, where the music was happening. They were the sort of tables that looked as if they were designed for giants and the matching bar stools made you feel like a small child sat on a high chair at a grown-up table. I felt as if I was on display, more so than the performers, who did not seem central to the general attention of the customers, possibly due to the poor acoustics. The bar was mirrored and with a plethora of dazzling lights already, it seemed ablaze. Waiting to be served, I wished I had more colour on my cheeks – maybe that was why the females were, on the whole, fully made-up. There was little change from ten pounds for just 2 drinks and with one of them being a half-pint, I decided that that would be my purchase for the evening.
But the Rastafarian was good company. He played, with 2 other musicians (a guitarist and a drummer) and I realised how much I enjoyed the simplicity of just him with his guitar, which was his usual offering. Although I had watched him play at The Tiny, Tiny Pub with the same accompaniment and enjoyed the performance, so perhaps it was just the room failing to provide for its musicians. Then he finished and we listened to some fellow musicians and the night was over. Afterwards, he said how pleased he was that I met him there.

“I like to be with you,” he stated, simply, “and now the women have seen you, they will leave me alone!”

We laughed.

A couple of days later was the gig at The Folky Pub at which I had made a vague arrangement to meet a friend of the Rastafarian’s. But that wasn’t the reason for my attendance – I was going to watch a folk musician whose guitar skills had overwhelmed me, when I was fortunate enough to watch him at the tail-end of an Open Mic one night. I didn’t usually stay till the end, being a Sunday, but on this occasion I hadn’t had work the next day and for that I was grateful. He had started with pure instrumentals and I was transfixed by his fingers working the strings to produce amazingly intricate and entertaining music. To watch someone who has complete mastery over something is awe-inspiring. As a comparison, when you learn to ski, you feel smaller than the mountain initially, as if it has mastery over you, yet in time there is a gradual shift and if you are dedicated (and maybe talented too), ultimately, you will be bigger than the mountain and will bash it and use it to its full potential for your own satisfaction. It is the same with musicians; to witness a pianist displaying their passion on the keyboard by exploiting its ability to make sweet music and making it give out the music they require of it, is wizardry. It was wizardry with this guitarist; he was young, but serious and focused on his performance. There was no flamboyance, no showmanship, no unnecessary flaunting . . . He didn’t need to, because his playing was enough. He had moved onto Beeswing for his second offering (a favourite not just because it mentions Gower) and finished with an Oasis cover.

I had double-booked myself, though. I had arranged to meet friends for a drink but they were understanding when I explained about the double booking. I met them first and as I would be leaving early, I arrived promptly. Actually, a little early, which was a rare thing. Being the first evening of the Bank Holiday weekend, the pub in Burgess Hill was pretty rammed and I waited for a considerable amount of time at the bar. Having worked as a barmaid throughout my student years, I sympathised with the bar staff and remained outwardly understanding, although my growing impatience was aggravated by the continued stare of a man just along the bar from me. Every time I looked around, his attempt at a seductive glance was waiting for me. I nearly ditched the glasses, as they seemed to be the cause of this surge in male attention, but I would not have had the remotest chance of spotting my friends if I had. So I avoided his ‘seduction’ and stared straight ahead, minimising my chances of being served but it seemed the only trade-off available. At some point they arrived and we had an enjoyable libation together, before I had to run away back to Brighton. We made plans for another meet-up, so I’ll have more to say after the next night out, when I will be careful to not double-book myself.

When I arrived at The Folky Pub, the proceedings had begun, but as it was a showcase of 4 musicians, I had hoped he would not be first. I assumed he would be last, being the best of the four (in my opinion) but he was second, so I arrived just as he began. I wondered how he was not last, but when it became clear that he was running the event, I understood. His modesty would not have allowed him to place himself last. He did not disappoint, although it was difficult to hear him at times over the shrieks from the table next to me. There was a group of people on a works’ do and to be fair, one drunk woman was responsible for the entirety of the shrieking. When his set was over, one of the chaps became fixated on the whereabouts of his coat, ferreting around by my feet, wordlessly, but with accompanying mutters of ‘where is it’. Slightly irritated by his lack of courtesy in not asking permission to root around by my feet, I offered to help him. It was meant as a subtle indication of his slight rudeness, but was taken as a genuine offer of help, so I found myself assisting his search for his coat. We got chatting and whereas I had thought he was three sheets to the wind, I think ‘Sally Albright’ (aka his female colleague) had tarnished all their reputations with her continued noise. He invited me to join them for the rest of the evening (they were leaving to find the local club scene) and it was tempting; he was pleasant enough. But the Rastafarian had been in touch and we had agreed to meet . . . Although he was rather late by now. I had duly spent some time with his friend, but had moved away to hear the amazing guitarist better.
I tried removing my glasses for the next artiste, but I couldn’t see a great deal without them, so when the Rastafarian was suddenly next to me with a drink, I jumped back with surprise. He offered me a drink, but he’d taken an hour and a half to turn up, since alerting me to his intention to join me and insisting that he was ‘on his way’, so I’d had as much alcohol as I wanted. By the time the last musician was playing, I could have had another drink but he left me to go to the bar, saying that he couldn’t afford to offer me a drink too. I remembered how I’d bought him a pint of Kronenbourg on more than one occasion during our relationship when I couldn’t afford a drink for both of us and I’d drunk water instead. I allowed myself a tiny wallow in self-pity and consoled myself with the knowledge that at the very least, I could claim the moral high ground. He polished off his pint and as the music was finishing, when he said he was going outside for a smoke, I decided to join him. I wondered why he wanted to stay, if he had no more money for a drink, but I decided I would head off home soon.
As we walked past the bar, a tall, mixed race chap with a strong South London accent, stopped him. He put his arms out to hug the Rastafarian and I assumed he was an acquaintance. The Rastafarian exuded geniality and ease with everyone normally, so his wary withdrawal from ‘Leroy’ seemed out-of-character. He put his arms around me instead, saying ‘let me hug this one first’, then, with a shy smile, allowed Leroy to hug him. The latter was excited to meet the Rastafarian, purely because of his colour. The Rastafarian reacted to Leroy’s effervescent personality with evasion; the more Leroy asked about him, the more he retreated into himself, but still wearing the same, slightly sheepish, smile. There seemed to be a lot of ‘business’ around Leroy . . . There was a crowd of people, all chatting, buying drinks, generally fizzing with excitement. Beer was passed round and I noticed a pint in the Rastafarian’s hand. I challenged his possession of another drink, given that he hadn’t had enough money to offer me a drink, yet had bought 2 drinks since then. It was a teasing challenge: I didn’t mind the absence of a drink, but I felt the need to let him know that I’d noticed. I wondered if someone had bought it for him and so I still wanted him to know I’d noticed, as I marvelled, generally, at his ability to procure drinks whilst penniless. Leroy turned to me, in the end, frustrated by the Rastafarian’s reluctance to speak. He thought that he couldn’t speak English, but I laughed and said that he could speak English, Rwandan, Swahili, French, possibly some other African languages.

“Have you got dreads under that hat?” Leroy pointed at the Rastafarian’s over-sized peaked cap which housed his beautiful hair, “I used to have them too!” Leroy smoothed his shaved head as if he was searching for his lost mane.
The latter remained mute, yet smiling, so, knowing his pride in his dreadlocks, I said that yes, he did, and tried to hook one out to show Leroy. But the Rastafarian wanted to keep the answer to the question, literally, under his hat and he moved away from me, placing one hand protectively on his head. A girl had moved in on the conversation and the jollity continued for a few more minutes, until she pulled Leroy out of the melee and spoke quietly but seriously to him.
“You’ve taken my friend’s drink!” Leroy turned on the Rastafarian, who continued with his apparent inability to talk and frowned back.
He put his arms out either side of him, showing the palm of the free one, as if to protest his innocence and show that he was empty-handed, as if that would prove his lack of guilt. But Leroy was unconvinced and became verbally aggressive. I told the Rastafarian to return the drink, as it all made sense now. A man had been buying drinks at the bar – a friend of Leroy’s – he was buying pints and passing them back. Now I reached back into the recesses of my short-term memory, before the information disappeared forever, as it does when it is not considered useful, I thought I had seen the Rastafarian take one such pint from Leroy’s friend, who probably thought that he was taking it to pass on to its rightful owner. But the Rastafarian had kept it instead, I thought . . .
‘It is my drink,” stated the Rastafarian, choosing to speak at last. Maybe I was wrong. Who would continue such a lie to an increasingly aggressive, rather imposing chap? Yet Leroy was insistent. And so was the girl, although she was speaking to him in hushed tones once more, evidently pursuing peace now and trying to diffuse the situation for which she had unwittingly been a catalyst.
“Let’s go outside,” invited Leroy.
I wasn’t keen, but the Rastafarian was. I followed, concerned, for what I am not sure, but I didn’t feel it was prudent to leave 2 men locking horns unattended.
“You bring shame on the dreadlocks, man!” accused Leroy.
I did not know at this stage whether or not the Rastafarian was guilty as charged. I was baffled. I could imagine him blagging a drink, but would he continue it thus far? The whole scenario had been odd from the start. Was Leroy really that delighted to meet a fellow black man? Why was the Rastafarian so unusually cagey about their interaction? If the Rastafarian was blameless, why did Leroy seek justice with such fervour? How could he be so sure of his guilt? If the Rastafarian was guilty, why didn’t he just return the beer, even if he wasn’t brave enough to confess to a wrongdoing?
Leroy was not a physically aggressive man, otherwise he would have used his fists, not words. The Rastafarian had continued to drink from the offending pint glass throughout the row, but eventually, worn down by accusations or maybe his own guilt, he offered the drink to the girl. It was refused and we parted company, although the Rastafarian chose to become demonstrative at last towards Leroy and scooped him up in a hug. Leroy was reluctant to engage and was a rather passive recipient of this unexpected affection. He left us, clearly dissatisfied with the outcome and the Rastafarian calmly continued to sup ‘his’ beer.
I had said very little throughout the argument. I wanted to support Leroy and say ‘yes, yes, yes! He does bring shame onto the dreadlocks!’ The Rastafarian was obsessed with reggae musicians and their ideals. During arguments, or when he had failed to coerce me into granting a wish, he would say ‘you don’t listen to reggae – you are not a Rastafarian – you do not understand’ which angered me. I had been so generous to him, in the face of his lying and cheating and all-round disrespect (and I did listen to reggae – way before knowing him!) so although I was lacking a full set of dreadlocks, I felt worthier of wearing dreads than he. There had been times when I had wanted to point out his hypocrisy and my belief that Bob Marley or Peter Tosh would not approve of the way he treated people.
Yet I had kept quiet. My support for Leroy, had I manifest it, would have caused me problems. He knew I supported him; he turned to me during the argument to say ‘she knows’ and the Rastafarian had swiftly turned to face me, accusingly, wrath making his eyes seem knowing and threatening.
“I said nothing!” I said, in truth.
“You don’t have to,” reassured Leroy, which allowed me to breathe once more. I could not face a prolonged rant from the Rastafarian.
I left the Rastafarian behind and made my way home. I did not understand why he was staying, unless he had lied about his lack of beer money but I ceased to care. I did care about his welfare though and I instructed him to avoid confrontations as I left.
I fell into bed and my phone made a ‘pinging’ noise as I did so. The Rastafarian, I thought…
‘Hey Lisa. How are you doing? Was thinking over our time together and remembering how nice it was.’
Wimbledon Man . . ?

‘Singlehood’

Before the Rastafarian, I would attend Open Mic nights solo. So the following Monday evening, having finished work for Easter and finding myself at a loose end, I decided to push myself back into the world of singlehood (that should be a word . . . Oops – it is now because I just wrote it) and doing what I liked. I messaged Original Blues to see if he would be playing at The Cabaret Bar and I was surprised to receive a ‘Who is this?’ reply.
‘Can’t believe you deleted me,‘ I complained, with a sad emoticon, after announcing my identity.
As I pressed ‘send’ I wondered if he was the proud owner of a new phone but with the old number and he had irretrievably lost his contacts, as often happens, even though they always promise a complete transfer of numbers.
‘Sorry about that,’ was his reply so sadly, my instincts were right.
He wasn’t playing but I went anyway. I knew there was a chance that I would happen upon a certain Rastafarian, but I figured that I would have to desensitise myself, as I was already doing by continuing to indulge in the likes of Bob Marley and Jacob Miller. Music has to be the most evocative of the Muses and I was struggling to listen to reggae without wanting to sob into my speakers, but I hoped the feeling would pass.
“Mind if I sit here?” a tall, bearded, friendly-looking chap was motioning towards the empty seat next to me.
“Not at all,” I smiled, a little dismissively, as there were plenty of empty seats attached to plenty of empty tables, so I was suspicious. I wasn’t in the mood to be chatted up unless it was Ewan McGregor, Patrick Stewart or Viggo Mortensen. I wanted to listen to the music.
Inevitably, he introduced himself and it turned out that he worked in a similar field to me, so I was happy to chat. He seemed genuinely chatty about our similar jobs and genuinely interested in keeping in touch from a networking viewpoint, so I took his contact details. He was a musician, which was not in his favour, in case he had ulterior motives. He was planning on playing and I mentioned how I’d started rehearsing with a friend but one of the songs was written for the piano and I wasn’t sure if the guitar accompaniment would work. He suggested we played together, that night, but I was reluctant without a practice. Then he played – it was like The Beatles mixed up with Tom Lehrer and I have to admit I was impressed with his talent. He seemed interested in accompanying me in the future, so I took the decision to give him my number.
Then things changed.
Whereas we’d had some interesting, chilled conversations about our work and playing at Open Mic nights, the topic changed to his recently ended relationship. It was fine, for a bit, but sometime later in the evening, I would recall the moment I gave him my number as a ‘red alert’ moment. All hands should have rushed to the deck to prevent the link between him and me ever being created. The more he talked, the more disillusioned I felt and the more I really wanted to get back to listening to the talent that was abounding all around me.
“I know this is crazy,” he leaned in and looked right into my eyes. I knew crassness was following . . . 3,2,1 . . .
And we have lift-off.
I won’t repeat his words. But they took all value away from all previous conversations. I turned down his suggestion, but rather than immediately retracting it and eating humble pie, he proceeded to make the same far-fetched suggestion several more times.
“It’s not happening.” I looked him right back in the eyes and made my words as blunt as possible.
After some time, humility found a way into his psyche and apologies were forthcoming.
Then the door opened and the Rastafarian slid in.
I had told New Guy about the Rastafarian and my double-take gave away our relationship.
“That’s him, isn’t it?” he took time out from continual apologising to enquire about the tall, mysterious figure whose stealthy movements attracted more attention than they apparently intended.
“I’ll go. Give you guys some space.”
“Don’t worry,” I replied, not caring if he was there or not. His departure would suggest there was something other than hostility between us, I felt.
I walked over to the Rastafarian and he hugged me, slowly and tightly. I invited him to sit with me, which he did and so I introduced him to New Guy.
I hadn’t considered the potential awkwardness of sitting between New Guy and the Rastafarian. I asked the latter if he would like to talk outside, as the previous day I had popped a letter through his letterbox, with one of his ‘Rastabands’ enclosed, which I used to wear. In the letter I urged him to get some help over past traumas, indicated how I felt they’d impacted on his life and listed wonderful attributes to his personality. He declined my offer and said that he hadn’t read the letter anyway. The Rastafarian had never liked chatting publicly, so I found myself chatting more to New Guy, even though still, I just wanted to enjoy the music; there was one young chap singing in a Billy Bragg type of manner and playing the piano with passion and talent unmatched by anyone that evening. I wanted to catch his name, so I could look up his music, but New Guy distracted me from my mission. I did what I try to avoid: I went over and asked his name. The Rastafarian’s claim that that was flirting, still rattled at me but I tried to not care. The afore-mentioned left the table to sit with a friend and at some point the evening finished and I found myself standing outside, enjoying the first spring evening of many (one hopes). The Rastafarian was smoking, his friend was chatting and New Guy was long gone. I told the Rastafarian I was going home. He walked me to my car and I offered to drop him off on my way. He asked me to drop him at The Jazzy Pub I used to go to with Original Blues. It was their jazz evening so I agreed to accompany him for a drink. I re-parked and we wandered along . . . Then we stopped at a doorway to chat to a homeless friend. He was a pleasant chap, but when I saw New Guy randomly sitting in the doorway too, moving on seemed a better choice. Homeless Guy looked more than a little peeved at the advent of 3 extra people in his doorway which was, to be fair, not just his bedroom but his home for the night.

“Guys, sorry – I don’t mean to sound rude but I have to be up early in the morning.”
The Rastafarian and I made moves to go but New Guy seemed immovable.
“What do you mean?” he quizzed sleepy Homeless Guy.
“The people that work here – they arrive at 6am, so I have to be up and away by then.”
I was embarrassed on behalf of New Guy, for his lack of sensitivity. Did it matter why Homeless Guy wanted us to leave? It was his place for the night – he shouldn’t have to justify himself to us, I thought, all of whom have proper homes to which to return.
“It’s my job to get homeless people off the street,” New Guy claimed as we left Homeless Guy.
I queried his claim, as that wasn’t his job an hour or 2 ago.
“I do that too,” he explained, defensively yet unconvincingly.
“Why aren’t you getting him off the street, then?” I questioned.
The question was ignored and he talked about how intelligent Homeless Guy was. There was an irony about his series of speeches; he was trying to impress me, but achieving the opposite. He was trying to impart an insight into the issue of homeless people but his clumsy comments just served to make him seem bigoted, patronising and full of preconceptions. I couldn’t be bothered to argue with him and at some point, he left.
The Rastafarian and I went to another pub – not The Jazzy Pub – which was disappointing.
Ping.
Lose your friend and join me,’ New Guy messaged me.
I ignored his message.
It was at this point that the moment I’d given him my number became a Red Alert moment in my memory. I continued to ignore his messages until finally, after around a dozen communications asking me to join him and alerting me to his continually changing whereabouts in town (I was starting to genuinely think he was homeless) I sent a curt message explaining that I had no intention of meeting him in town that night and please would he stop messaging me.
After one last random message which was a weird proclamation of love (this guy needed some serious help in successful chat-up lines . . . I marvelled that he had ever had a relationship) all became quiet on the New Guy front. I also marvelled at the amount of male attention I was receiving. I’d run out of lenses and bought some cheap glasses instead. They were massive, ‘don’t come near me’ (to put it nicely) glasses. Marilyn Monroe was so wrong: men do make passes at girls who wear glasses. Even more so, it would seem.
The Rastafarian wanted to know who had been messaging me.
“It’s that man from the pub!” he accused.
I didn’t answer. It was none of his business now we were just friends. He continued . . .
“That is why I moved,” he admitted, “I did not want to be near people who were interested in you. I sat with my friend, because I knew I was safe there.”
The Rastafarian had many acquaintances, because of his penchant for frequenting local hostelries. Half the time he was playing in them, but the other half he was just drinking. He’d grown up in a pub, so I felt it was a nostalgic past-time for him, as he missed his homeland and his mother. But he called everyone his ‘friend’, even though he could not remember most people’s names. Other ‘friends’ of his had propositioned me; one claimed that the Rastafarian had many women and I should ditch him to go out with someone else (him, of course). He was African and didn’t realise I’d heard him say to the Rastafarian that he fancied ‘finding a nice English girl and marrying her to get a British passport’. He spoke in Swahili to the Rastafarian for the most part so it was a faux pas that he forgot for the important bits. Not that I was interested anyway . . .
We sat with Open Mic guy in the pub, but Open Mic guy really wasn’t in the mood for being a good friend to the Rastafarian, which, to be fair, he usually was. He was trying to have a meaningful conversation with a friend and became bored with the Rastafarian’s attempts to join in and simply told the bar staff to stop serving him as he was too full of Kronenbourg already. This was absolutely the right course of action, but I did feel a little sorry for the Rastafarian, who looked dejected and lost. I’d been trying to convince him that having a lift home (to his home and me to mine) was a good idea and eventually he caved and agreed to allowing the evening to end.

Forgiveness

The Rastafarian had continued to message me. I had ignored him or been curt with my responses but, on this particular evening, having taken a sort of ‘joie de vivre’ home with me, after a chilled afternoon with friends, my heart felt big enough to reply to him. I forgot, for a moment, that I’d lodged a claim against him to claw back the money he owed me.

‘Hey,’ I replied, ‘I’m good – how are you? Busy planning so no, I can’t come over. Sorry.’

I had lost some work from the previous night and so I was prepared for an evening of planning.

‘Come when you can. I want to see you. I love you Hun xx’

It occurred to me that it may be a good idea to pay him a visit in order to be as transparent as I could be about my claim against him.

‘I’ll let you know when I’ve finished,’ I replied.

‘Please give me a time,’ was his slightly stroppy (I felt) response, ‘or I will make other plans.’
This unleashed a fury from my phone which surprised even me. I reminded him of all the times he’d said that he was busy, but would ‘let me know’ if he had time to see me and being fairly easy-going about such things, I’d just got on with things whilst waiting for a text. By this time, my laptop had fired up and to my pleasant surprise, the loss was not that devastating. I managed to recreate my original Smart (my lesson plans are gradually evolving from PowerPoints to Smarts – a painful process!) from Smarts that had been ‘auto-recovered’ for the coming week and so when he back-pedalled and said ‘OK, OK, whenever you’re ready,’ I gave him a time in an hour or so that I would be there.

Seeing him was difficult. He was pleasant, loving, almost humble. After some time of genuinely enjoying his company, I told him.

It was not an experience I would want to repeat.

He said nothing for a moment, then looked away.

‘God,’ he muttered, ‘you’re taking me to court . . . ‘

I justified my actions but he didn’t seem to be listening.

He didn’t shout, just stood, quietly.

I felt I was witnessing raw emotion, genuine feeling, pure distress. I didn’t relish in it, yet there was something refreshing about seeing his feelings exposed. There was a certainty about the reaction I was seeing. I knew that this was an honest response – there was no deceit – this was real. No melodrama, just quiet . . . Conversely, it polarised past emotional responses in its brutal honesty. It compounded the uncomfortable feeling I’d had in the past that his emotional responses weren’t necessarily genuine . . .

I left and sat in the car.

He called me.

“You’re leaving – just like that?”

“I didn’t think you’d want me around.”

Silence.

“Shall I come back in? To talk about it?”

“No. I don’t want to see you.”

“Well, that’s what I thought,” I said, as he put the phone down.

I should have felt strong, empowered, justified . . . But instead, I felt intense sadness. He’d greeted me warmly and his mood had been upbeat and I was responsible for him crashing and burning, emotionally.

He sent me a message full of melancholy and I sent him my defence back. He responded once more and so I suggested I return so we could talk. But he refused, so I left.

I waited patiently to start feeling at peace with myself. But it didn’t happen. I went to bed and lay awake, feeling troubled. How can this be? I wondered. I had taken perfectly reasonable action, yet I was feeling negative with myself. How was he feeling, I wondered? Angry? Contrite? Wronged? Humbled?

When I woke the following morning, I had that sickening feeling about a minute or two after waking, that all wasn’t well. This is ridiculous, I thought. It was a feeling of loss, much like a bereavement or the end of a relationship. I had not prepared for this. There was something about seeing him broken that was causing me acute emotional distress. He deserved to be taken to court, there was no doubt about that, but I didn’t have enough desire for vengeance to enjoy the pain it would cause him. I wanted my money back, but at what cost? He deserved this, but maybe it should be at someone else’s hands, not mine. Someone who could see this through. Maybe this wasn’t for me. Maybe it wasn’t the Rastafarian’s time to grow up yet. Maybe I should turn the other cheek. ‘Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!’ I thought of Les Miserables, when Jean Val-Jean steals the candlesticks and the priest, instead of dobbing him in (I’ve definitely been around teenagers too much), says ‘hey – you left some behind – take these too!’ I’m not suggesting I had a desire to make a gift of anything else to him, least of all a pair of expensive candlesticks, of which I have none, but I did feel a desire to walk away from the angst of the tangled mess that my relationship with this undesirable character had become.

At work, I pondered over my feelings and my actions in snatches: past, present and future. I say ‘in snatches’ because you can’t really take time out from a lesson to reflect on your personal life, so inbetween lessons, the memory of his face was fading in and out of my mind, whether I wished it to or not. A colleague had suggested I return his bracelet to him, out of goodwill and I had reacted strongly. Goodwill?! I had questioned. Hadn’t I shown him enough goodwill?! I think he had regretted his ‘advice’. The Rastafarian didn’t deserve his bracelet back. He had broken my crucifix and owed me 2k, amongst other misdemeanours. But at this moment in time, I stared at its presence around my wrist and I didn’t want it. It meant nothing. I would return it. I would withdraw the claim too. It was unlikely that I would be successful and I didn’t feel bitter any more. He didn’t deserve for me to withdraw the claim but I didn’t want to carry negativity around with me. I pitied him. He might have extorted money out of me, but I had the capacity to forgive him and move on. And leave him behind. On his hopeless treadmill of deception, excess and playing at being a grown-up.

I messaged him. I told him how disappointed I was in his treatment of me, but that I was withdrawing the claim and dropping his bracelet round. He was pleased. In the evening, I dropped the bracelet round and we were ‘friends’ again. He showed me the letter he’d received from the court and when I had the chance, I secretly slid it into my pocket. I realised that my new address was on it and that I didn’t want him to be privy to such information.

My week progressed and Rhiannon asked about the money situation. I told her he hadn’t started to repay it and she expressed a desire to contact him herself. I was not in favour of this. He was capable of the most venomous vitriol and as she herself was recovering from a break-up, this was not the kind of exposure I wanted for her. It wasn’t news; both she and her brother had made it clear that they would be contacting him if he didn’t start to repay the money.

I decided I would like to see him to alert him to my children’s intentions, in the hope that he might start to take responsibility, in the face of his potential embarrassment of my children communicating their disappointment to him.

‘I would like to talk to you face-to-face,’ I messaged.

‘Can you lend me £10 and I give back tomorrow?’ he replied.

If ever I’d had doubts about ending the relationship, they had just popped like an over-inflated balloon. I declined his request, of course and the verbal abuse that ensued was relentless. This man had no scruples. No remorse. No sense of responsibility. To call him childish even, would be an insult to children, because my children had never displayed such lack of care for others, lack of humility, lack of ability to reflect on their actions, even at a young age.

I blocked him.