Ched Evans: A mirror of our society?




Regardless of what’s been said about the controversial Ched Evans case, it does hold a mirror up to all of us and it ain’t pretty.

We’ve all seen very drunk people on the streets after a night out, even been one of them ourselves. I have to admit, that at times, I’ve looked at drunks falling over, vomiting or pissing in shop doorways, with something like disdain. Have you?

This disdain turns into something uglier when young women are the drunks. There’s a residue in society mindset that still thinks it’s somehow shameful. What’s worrying is that’s endemic even amongst those younger than I.

We have to ask what happened to us? Why does a drunk/drugged and vulnerable person, over-ride what should be our natural, human, instinct to help them?

It’s as if a drunk becomes less than human and if they fall under a bus, lie in a gutter choking on their own vomit, or are sexually taken advantage of, it is somehow ALL THEIR OWN STUPID FAULT. We absolve ourselves of our empathy or responsibility to help someone vulnerable, male or female.

If the vulnerable drunk was your friend, your sister, your partner; would you feel differently? Haven’t you ever scraped a friend off the pavement, taken them home in a taxi and made sure that they came to no harm? Did you judge them? Were they suddenly sub-human for having a drink too many?

I didn’t think so.

Let’s imagine we are observing the girl in the Ched Evans case.  She was considerably drunk. She was in her teens. Witnesses said she fell over several times, in the middle of a crowded Kebab shop, in the street and she squatted and urinated in a shop doorway.

I can’t help wondering why no-one had the humanity to help someone in such a state, someone who was so obviously vulnerable. Is it that disdain, again? Who are we to judge? What would we do in that situation?

Unfortunately, she ran into a predatory man. Rather than help, he saw an opportunity. He took her, in a taxi, to a hotel room booked by his friend Ched Evans. She left her bag in the taxi and he had to go back for it. We’ve seen her unsteady on her feet in the hotel lobby CCTV.

Tellingly, the man texted his friend, very simply: “I’ve got a bird”.

If we examine those words, it gets very disturbing. The girl is not seen as a person. She’s already a “thing” that has been “picked up” on a street. She is a “kill”, he’s the successful hunter.

She’s a flesh and blood wanksock that offers no resistance. She’s a slut, fair game.

The man takes full advantage, he says she was willing and enthusiastic. We don’t know. Whatever happened, he treated her with no empathy or respect. She was just an “easy fuck”, so out of it, she remembered nothing waking alone and naked in the morning.

During this sexual act, Ched Evans comes back. He lies to Reception to get a key and lets himself in. He knows his friend is there “with a bird”.

Two other friends attempt to film the sexual action on their mobiles, through the window.

Ched sees the woman just like his friend did, a hole to be fucked. He thinks he is entitled to “hop on” for “sloppy seconds”. She is not a human being. She’s a sex doll.

If she was seen as a person, he wouldn’t assume she was “fair game” being naked and in a sexual situation with his friend. He afforded them no privacy. He assumed the spoils of the “hunt” were to be shared.

Afterwards, he snuck out through the fire escape. His friend left her behind, too.

It’s a horrible, sordid, story.

Empathy, humanity and respect for another human being was conspicuously absent.

Terrifyingly, there are people who see this as a perfectly acceptable situation.

If we imagine the girl had met a different fate, if she had crossed paths with a decent, humane man, woman or group, she could have been put into a taxi and arrive home with nothing but a hangover.

When and why did we lose kindness and respect towards each-other? Are decent, kind people a species of human on the brink of extinction?

The rest of the story is even worse. The girl concerned has been bullied, threatened and publicly humiliated.  Presumably, the men and women expressing such vitriol towards her would find it acceptable if a similar fate awaited them, a member of their family or friends.

But that would be different, wouldn’t it?


Scroungers, Strivers and Schadenfreude

imageI haven’t been able to watch more than a minute of Benefits Street. The reaction of those who refer to the people featured as “thieving scum” etc pushes me to a place that’s beyond anger; a sort of deep disappointment, hopelessness. I know they will never be convinced of another point of view, unless it happens to them.

I was homeless once. I had to queue in the dole office to get a benefits cheque as I was ‘of no fixed abode’. There wasn’t any drugs, drink, or mental illness involved – I had to get away from home due to my mother’s spiralling violence and abuse.

I was young, innocent, frightened and not streetwise, in the least. My story could have had a very bad ending. I was one step away from hopeless.

Some friends of friends had a squat in London, so at least I wasn’t out on the streets; but I remember the grinding cold, the continuous ache in my bones and hunger. After a while, my nutrition was really bad due to lack of funds. I bought spaghetti, oxo cubes, cheap bread. There were no food banks back then.

Strangely enough, I was safe. Safer than I had been at home. The guys in the squat were bikers, who had a strong moralistic code. They would even send me off to stay with their mothers or grandmothers if they had a party. They looked after me like a band of hairy, greasy, leather clad, big brothers.

I never begged, but strangers were still kind. The chip shop owner used to give me food. The people at the local pub allowed me to use their bathroom, the bakery used to slip me a loaf about to go stale. Sounds Dickensian, but this was only a couple of decades back.

We all got ill. With no heating or hot water, it’s an effort to keep clean (although I bathed the best I could with a basin of water every day). The cold air was the worst, it got into your lungs and carried any passing cold right into the trachea. I got asthma eventually, after a series of chest infections. It’s a weakness I still carry.

I looked like a waif in an army greatcoat far too big for me, woolen hats, Dr Martens and layers upon layers of clothing over my jeans. A long way from the immaculate beribboned child I once was or the flamboyant art student I was but a few months before. Fashion was long gone.

I got out when things changed. The population of a squat is a transient one. As my surrogate brothers moved on, new people took their place.They were mainly middle class rebels, with a bit of money, which was spent on drugs.

Soon I felt unsafe. I managed to get a decrepit, half derelict house in a rough part of London through a housing association. Downstairs was uninhabitable, dark, damp and full of rubble. I didn’t want to think about the rats. Upstairs was as bright and clean as I could make it, with donations from friends, skip diving and junk shops. It was an address, at least.

I finished my studies, got a job and everything changed. I was one of the lucky ones, well educated and with the will to turn my life around.

After a few years of working my way up, I was running a small company, turning over £4m a year, with a share of the profits. I had tens of thousands in the bank, which I spent.

I could buy anything I wanted to. A sports car. Luxury holidays. Dinner at the best restaurants. Cases of Champagne. Cocktails in the swankier bars. Designer clothes – a massive apartment, decorated to the highest specifications. Lending my friends large sums of money. Frequent weekends away for my friends. It was a manic circus around me.

It was all so meaningless. Just wrapping paper. All that money kept me distant from my friends in different jobs, the teachers, the care workers, the actors, the struggling designers.

I didn’t want to hang out with people like me, I didn’t like the middle class rich, all babies, property, school catchments and tennis clubs. I had nothing to say to them. I still don’t.

Maybe it’s because I have seen both sides of the story, I feel happiest somewhere in the middle. I decided to work part time a few years back, but 4 days a week quickly became 7 and, although I wasn’t earning anything like I used to, I was still highly paid compared to many of my peers and partners.

It burnt me in the end, all that ‘striving’. All I ended up with was a great deal of “stuff” and mental and physical exhaustion, which is a kind of living death.

Now all I need is enough to get by. I can live luxuriously enough on half my last salary. I know that there’s always a story behind hardship, most people aren’t feckless ‘scroungers’, they have got trapped. And it’s no fun, I can promise you that.

It only takes one turn of the wheel of fate and it could be you.

Maybe we should try sympathy instead of schadenfreude.

Into every life a total fuckwit will fall


Out, out, vile jelly – where is thy lustre now?

Goneril, King Lear, William Shakespeare

I played Goneril years ago, complete with real bull’s eyes for the “putting out Gloucester’s eyes” scene. It was fun, particularly when chucking the eyes into the audience afterwards. I had a supply on special order from the butcher for the run.

Shakespeare’s naming of the sisters was interesting, Goneril with the allusion to gonorrhea, a deadly disease in those times, Reagan, which sounds harsh, but really should have been derived from syphilis, to continue the theme, and, of course, the vapid Cordelia – a name foisted upon many a middle class daughter.

I’d personally love it if the middle classes would name their offspring after villains instead – “Meet Goneril, Judas and little Satan, our children”. But I digress. This is supposed to be about poking someone’s eyes out.

The reason this grisly scene comes to mind is that I have just dispensed of a total fuckwit I have known for a while after one transgression too many. The reason why this is connected to poking eyes out is the old Irish saying that sums up this person beautifully:

They’d steal the eye out of your head then come back and spit in the hole.

Many of us have been unlucky enough to have had toxic fuckwittery in our lives. As we get older, we become better at spotting them coming over the proverbial hill and avoiding them. This time, I didn’t. Why? Because I’ve been too wrapped up in sorting out my own life and, of late, have been feeling very upbeat, positive and very tolerant of other’s peccadilloes. Until now, that is.

I’m particularly vulnerable to sociopathic narcissists. Having been raised by one, there is a subconscious familiarity in them that I often can’t see through. I get sucked into their orbit and before I know it, I’m making excuses for the first red flag of warning that appears, then the second and then puzzling about the third, feeling uneasy for a day or two – then BLAM – I realise I’ve got a fuckwit on my hands.

Why this doesn’t occur to me immediately, I don’t know, perhaps I’m being far too tolerant for my own good? But despite people like this, I don’t want to become a suspicious cynic, unable to let anyone near me. There are more good people than bad, after all.

I’ve known this particular fuckwit for a while. I’ve been very nice, particularly understanding. I’ve used all my powers of empathy to make rock solid excuses for their appalling behaviour. I’ve felt sympathetic, caring, compassionate and taken in a series of untruths, plus a big dollop of rudeness and selfishness – which I charitably put down to extenuating circumstances.

I’m not a vengeful person, but I’ve let myself get REALLY ANGRY once I realised the scale of manipulation that had been taking place. The inferno of rage has burned inside me and I let it get to white hot stage without taking any action, whatsoever. Rage is very cleansing and better out than in. I don’t fancy being someone’s bitch in Holloway, either.

There’s little worse than being taken for a fool. I am not, however, the vengeful kind. I know this person has treated many others in a similar fashion. All I have done is to send a dollop of ill intent out into the universe and if all the people they have wronged have done similar – they will find out, in time, that Karma is indeed a bitch.

The next step is to excise the toxin. This is a surgical procedure that removes the fuckwit and all their attendant paraphernalia out of your life. A quick and final cut, they are discarded and will never be engaged with again.

This is difficult when fuckwits work with you or are somehow entangled in your life, but in this case, it is someone I don’t see that often, so the kill is quick and clean.

Afterwards comes the relief. It’s as if a rucksack full of rocks has been dropped from your back. They are gone and can do no more harm.

Tempting as it is to warn others, I won’t, because that would be allowing the toxin to spread in me, which isn’t worth it.

Begone fuckwit, I am free of you! (Although I’d have enjoyed poking you in the eye)



At some point the fear and anxiety left. No dwindling or dramatic exit, just ebbed away like water after a flood. I didn’t notice it had gone. I keep looking back and thinking “A year ago, I couldn’t have handled this.” Now I can handle all sorts of things. Without even thinking about it.

There’s a cool, calmness that has appeared from somewhere. A new skill of dispassionate objectivity. I ask myself “Does this really matter?” and it rarely does. Not if I can survive it. And I can. I have survived so much worse.

There have been the usual difficulties and challenges recently. Some of them would have floored me for a while, when I was at my most fragile. I am not immune to anxiety or hurt or even the odd really bad day.  It happens, I shrug, then feel whatever I feel in proportion for a short while and then I move on, entirely free.

I don’t recognise this grown woman I have become, this wisdom, this experience, this way of feeling authentically, but proportionately, she is part of me and is here to stay. I had no idea she was there, all along.

Out of all that suffocating darkness, a lighter, wiser, self has emerged at last.

If you are going through challenging times, feeling that things are overwhelming and that nothing will change, please don’t give up hope. A year ago, I was in the same place and coming back happens frustratingly slowly.

Not so long ago, I had shut down my feelings, found that I didn’t have the resources to engage with people, just surviving each day was like climbing a mountain. I had to hide away from the world to recover and lick my wounds.

The first signs of recovery were:

Feeling the emotions I had locked away (not pleasant) and letting them go

Listening to a small voice within – maybe for the first time (it was my healthy instinct)

Realising I had a choice in HOW I thought – negatively or positively and I could change the bad habit I had of fast forwarding negatively into the future and making predictions that ‘it would all go wrong’ even though there was no real evidence. 

Achieving small goals day by day

Looking after myself – eating well, getting enough sleep, a little pampering

Realising that I was a reasonably likeable, nice person

Slowly socializing again – but only with good, kind, people – not overdoing it

Cutting off anyone (including family) that made me feel bad

Telling the truth about how I felt to those I could trust (I was always scared of doing this)

Resilience isn’t built overnight and after a trial by fire you will change. Once it starts, however, it’s a great feeling. You will emerge stronger than ever.

I’m getting there and the future is within my control. I can make wiser choices.

You can, too.

This test may be useful for you to track your own progress:

My current score is 175 (the 25 item test)


image I’m a “Tantrika”. In case you don’t know what that is, it means that I have trained in various esoteric practices that involve meditation and breath control to…um…reach various “blissful” states.

Tantra is confusing as it means different things in different cultures, to the Buddhists it is about death, to the Hindus about life and the body and to the West – sex.

In some respects, it helps to have a sense of humour about it. Especially when attending classes and workshops. It does attract a wide range of people (and a few weirdos) but it’s not an orgy and no-one actually has sex. It’s all in the mind and the theory.

There are some groups where more ‘open’ participation takes place, but I haven’t been courageous enough to attend those. “Juicy women” groups are an example, where one ‘celebrates’ one’s ‘yoni’ (i.e vagina) with a small group of other women and a coach. It works like one of the original 1970’s female consciousness raising groups, knickers off and hand mirrors to explore your own nether regions. I’d die of embarrassment and/or get a fit of the giggles – so perhaps not. I don’t think any of my female friends would want to cum with me.

Another movement is the Sex Positive group with “OM” meditation. This consists of building a nest of cushions with a partner, then using lube, indulging in a 15 minute (it’s timed) masturbation or oral sex session (with the man doing all the work) and once this is learned, you are supposed to do it every day. Chance would be a fine thing!

One of the most unusual groups is ecstatic BDSM, that combines bondage and S&M with tantric techniques to push your boundaries sexually and open yourself up to new experiences. There are private sessions available, but most of the activity takes place within groups, with various ‘specialists’ to tie you up with ropes, stick needles in you and give you various forms of corporal punishment.

The difference between this and standard BDSM is that it involves deep mental states and emotional connection, so it is aimed at couples.  Apparently, it’s very popular in parts of Europe and they hold private ‘festivals’ – a sort of Glastonbury of sex! Wonder if it’s muddy?

All of these unusual activities are happening in and around London, as we speak and it seems to be a growing movement during times of austerity. After all, staying in and having adventurous sex is very budget conscious entertainment!

As for amusing, I have to tell you about the first Tantric Workshop I attended, because it was funny and not erotic at all. I learned a few things, which I have saved in my brain for the future, but at the time it was one of the strangest days I’ve had for a long time.

It was a Sunday morning and we were in a photographic studio, sitting on yoga blocks on a padded floor; 12 men, 12 women, the ‘guru’ plus one male and female ‘helper’. There was a wide mix of ages and nationalities, from very young, painfully shy, guys, to women and men in their fifties and most ages in between.

Apart from two girls in their thirties that had that ‘smug yoga look’ the beatific smile, tie-dye hippy garb and a tendency to wear very little in all weathers; all the other participants looked petrified. I was in one of my “So what” moods and was approaching the scene with a mix of cynicism and curiosity.

We started by being paired off randomly, male to female. I got a doggy eyed Italian man, who looked twitchy and nervous. This didn’t improve as we began the exercise, which was to match our breathing rate and stare into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes.

I just took it like one of those staring competitions from school days and just smiled and looked right at him. It was weird, but not a big deal, all I felt was an ache in my jaw because I had a smile stuck on my face, which set rigid as I realised how bothered my ‘partner’ was getting. His eyes were darting everywhere but towards my own, his jaw was clenching and he was biting his lips.

After a while, he started to shift from foot to foot and beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. His breaths became shallow and fast and I was getting tense trying to keep up with him and doing my best to slow him down. I kept smiling, I hoped kindly, although I was staring, I was doing my best to soften my gaze.

By the way the poor man was squirming, I might as well be beaming death rays out of my eyes. 10 minutes lasted forever. Well, reader, the Tantric Goddess of Medusa (to mix myths) must be strong in me, because my ‘partner’ then left the building, never to return! I don’t usually have that effect on people. Honest!

I was then paired with the male ‘helper’, who looked like a young, blond version of Richard Branson, all beard, teeth and patchouli. We had to continue the breathing/staring thing, this time for five minutes then we had to move to the right and ensure we ‘met’ every opposite sex member in the group in 3 minute increments.

The reactions of my male counterparts ranged from hysterical high pitched laughter (the helper), to one of the young ones that gulped continually like a turkey, the elderly Jamaican man, with the gold teeth just stared back warmly and the really creepy Greek man (who looked just like a satyr) made my skin crawl. The others were sparkly and flirty or like small bunnies in headlights.

I learned that I seemed to scare the hell out of at least half of them.  Note to self, don’t stare at strangers. My mother was right.

The next exercise involved walking around to some music and getting into our ‘female energy’  which meant holding our bodies softly, concentrating in breathing into our heart chakra and greeting the others in the group as we passed. This was an easier exercise, as everyone relaxed, I felt the urge to greet people with a smile and a touch on the shoulder or arm; which is how I tend to behave naturally, if I like people, I’m automatically tactile, unless I sense it makes someone uncomfortable.

This was followed by ‘masculine’ energy, where we all swaggered about like lads and nodded curtly at eachother, while breathing from our root chakra (based in the perineum!) which had more than a few of us laughing.  Interestingly, no one touched. That’s male energy for you.

The morning was spent in various exercises like this and breathing along to drum beats and through various energy chakras. It was easy and fun and by lunchtime, everyone was energised and we were connected as a group.

Lunch was, of course, a vegan affair and we ate outside at tables in the courtyard. I got talking to the guru, a bald ex insurance salesman, who had been made redundant, took off to India to ‘find himself’ and ended up at a meditation retreat. He took to it, changed everything about his life, including his name and set up a school of spirituality that held various groups like this on a regular basis.

The problem was, he was very literal and somehow quite an innocent, when one of the girls was joking with me about what the male and female energy would be like in a threesome and I said I’d let her know as I had one every other Saturday; he took this very seriously and asked why every other Saturday? I had to gently inform him, we were joking. He looked very confused.

Of course, the afternoon got weirder. Two of the exercises particularly stand out. One was the “flower and the bee” that consisted of all the girls standing facing outward, with eyes closed in a circle and the boys had to be bees visiting each flower.

They could touch us in a non sexual way and we could say STOP to any wandering hands. We didn’t know which man was the bee. I got a lot of hair stroking and some inept shoulder massages and someone tickled my neck in an annoying way, but that was it. A most peculiar experience.

When the girls were the bees we were much more adventurous. I was having fun making men shudder by breathing on their necks or stroking their spines lightly and one poor chap had the confusing experience of me and another girl tickling him and giving him bear hugs from behind. It was all quite innocent, like being children, not erotic at all. Maybe it was because I wasn’t in the least bit attracted to anyone.

The breathing exercises got more complicated and we had to pair off to do them. Everyone eventually got paired with everyone else, the soundtracks got weirder, the drumming more intense and we were supposed to learn to breathe ourselves through an orgasm, without the orgasm. Yup. That was odd.

The two ‘yoga’ girls, that I mentioned earlier, seemed to go into full “Meg Ryan in the Deli” mode with much screaming and moaning. Definitely fake though and owed more to a dodgy porno soundtrack than Tantric bliss. It made everyone else laugh and we discovered later they had been specially invited to make up numbers.

So I learned a bit and continued with further discoveries. I’ll tell you about that another time. Suffice to say, I have a lot of theory, but lack practice, but you never know when I’ll be able to release my “juicy female Goddess forces” …..



Perfect outfit for a first date. Classy, individual AND sexy!

Perfect outfit for a first date. Classy, individual AND sexy!

1. DO ensure he knows you are a sex bomb by describing your sexual prowess online – e.g “I always swallow” have public conversations with him about vulgar sex acts. He’ll assume you are not only classy, but a great sport.
2. DO increase the number and explicitness of texts in the days leading up to your meeting. He needs to know you’re hot.
3. DO wear as much make-up as you can and dress sexy, the more flesh on show, the better. He will love other men leering at you.
4. DO make sure he knows about the penis size and sexual style of all your previous partners. He’ll want to know how he measures up.
5. DO show him your ‘jealous’ side if he looks at or mentions another woman. Men love to feel wanted.
6. DO feign complete indifference if he starts talking about himself. Steer the conversation back to you and fish for compliments. He needs to know how special you are.
7. DO complain loudly about as many aspects of the venue he has chosen as you can. He needs to know you are used to the best things in life.
8. DO find several things to criticise about his appearance/taste/interests – if you can compare him unfavourably to other men you know, all the better. It will ensure he tries harder.
9. DO demonstrate your passionate nature by grabbing him if he tried to leave the table at any point (i.e go to the bathroom) say things like “You’ll never leave me, will you?” In your best ‘little girl’ voice.
10. DON’T laugh, smile or behave like you appreciate him in any way. Stay cool and he will get hotter towards you.
11. DO tease him as much as you can. Remove your shoes and play footsie, moving your foot up his leg and push down hard between his legs. He’ll be unable to resist, once his eyes stop watering.
12. DO act outraged and hurt if he makes any suggestion or reference to sex. Make sure he knows that he’ll have to wait at least six months before even kissing you. Them’s the rules.
13. DO talk about your fantasy wedding, honeymoon destination and the names of your future children. Nothing gets a man in a romantic mood faster.
14. DO invite a group of your girlfriends to sit a few tables away and signal to them how the date is going with thumbs up and thumbs down gestures as necessary. He’ll appreciate your sense of fun.
15. DO re-apply your make-up at the table, several times during the evening. He needs to know you care about how you look.
16. DO make a big fuss about what you are about to eat. Order off menu and be very specific about calorie count, fat content and carbs. He needs to know you care about your body.
17. DO drink as much as you possibly can. There’s nothing more charming than a tipsy girl.
18. DO take him back to yours later. Sex is compulsory on a first date (Point 12 is meant as a sexy ‘tease’) insist he disinfect himself before getting into bed.
19. DO choose an extreme sexual style for the first encounter, it will set the scene for the relationship. Choose from “Wild n Frenzied” or “Icy Maiden” or alternate between the two! It’s so exciting!
20. DO beg to see him again as he is leaving. Text him at least 20 times a day until the next date.


Dress down, don't hide your musky man scent by washing.

Dress down, don’t hide your musky man scent by washing.

1. DO prevaricate about setting up the date. Take your time. Change your mind. Drag your heels. She’ll love it.
2. DO wait until 30 minutes before date then text to cancel. The fact that she is dressed up & on her way, will earn you extra points.
3. DO make another date and repeat (2) above, up to three times to test if she likes you.
4. DON’T buy her a drink. She’ll like to get her own and yours.
5. DO have a moment of silence while you look her up and down, if you can manage a sneer, even better. Keeps her on her toes.
6. DO talk about other women you are dating or intend to date. Compare their attributes to hers, ensure she knows they are better than she and you’re only doing her a favour by being there. Will make her extra keen to try harder.
7. DO outline all the faults of all the women you have ever known in great detail. She needs to learn from their mistakes.
8. DON’T appear interested in anything she says. It will make you look cool and mysterious.
9. DO show your appreciation for other women in your surroundings. Make appreciative comments. She needs to know you are a real alpha male.
10. DO find a few things to criticise her for and do so, loudly and clearly. She needs to know you are a man of discernment.
11. DO tell her she looks considerably older and fatter than you thought she would. Keeping her guessing is very sexy.
12. DO suggest sex as soon as possible. The loo is a good place or around the back of the establishment by the bins. She’ll be putty in your hands.
13. DON’T smile or laugh at any point in the conversation. Maintain a haughty look of indifference.
14. DO invite a few friends in, preferably one of them being a woman with a crush on you, introduce them then ask them what they think of her. Flirt with the other girl, a lot. Your date needs to know you are in demand.
15. DO go back to hers if she has lasted this long. She has low self-esteem, which means she’s ideal.
16. DO dress and leave immediately after sex. If she is sleeping, leave a fiver on the bedside table.
17. DON’T contact her for at least two weeks, then call and ask if you can see her after a night out for a ‘BOOTY CALL’
18. DO ask if she has any prettier friends, if she turns you down at any point. Introductions like these are great for your Casanova reputation.
19. DO give her marks out of ten online for any sex acts you have indulged in. Photos are an added bonus.
20. DO date as many women as possible and openly flirt at all times, online and off. You’ll get luckier and luckier. Women love competing for a man!

Sex, drugs, the mafia and me 9


I woke and for a moment, I didn’t know where I was. The sun was streaming through my bedroom window and was bouncing off the white linen and the walls. I squinted and sat up; the events of the day before flooded in like a black tide.

I don’t know if you have ever experienced heart ache, but let me tell you, it’s a very physical thing. There was a stone pressing into me under my ribs, heavy and hot and it really hurt. It was as if I had swallowed a pebble and it stuck there, making it hard to breathe or feel anything else.

Then the tears came.

When you dam up your emotions, they are going to break through, sooner or later. And they came. The tears welled up from somewhere deep in my gut and I howled loudly, my whole body was in paroxysms from my sobs.

I flung myself on the bed and just let it happen. My whole body joined in. Every cell, every drop of blood, every nerve felt like it was screaming. I pushed my face into the pillow in case my loud keening would awake the neighbours.

It went on for a long time, then like a storm, it subsided. I was exhausted, empty and my face stung with the salt.

I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Alice Cooper stared back.

I somehow showered and stood there, under the spray, water and tears mixing on my face.  Everything felt robotic , I was following some automated script. I got dressed and then my phone rang. It was my dearest friend.

She, in her usual practical, loving, fashion, persuaded me to get out of the house and come over to hers. We were going to spend the day and the night together to stop me sinking into a looming pit of tears and worry.

Still on auto-pilot, I got over to Brixton. We had a drink in a pub on the high street. I was a mess, conducting a normal conversation for a few minutes, but then breaking down in tears the next. The other patrons kept looking at us.

Back then, Brixton had a bad reputation; my friend had been mugged at knife-point and there was audacious drug dealing happening very openly in the street outside. But, in every community there is a heart and fewer London suburbs have a heart as big as Brixton. That day, I’d discover just how big that heart was.

There were a group of young men observing us a few tables away. They were a typical Brixton ‘tribe’, tattooed, pierced faces, matted dreadlocks, scruffy army fatigues, the type that you might cross the road to avoid.

One of those was scribbling furiously, his head down, scowling at the piece of paper in front of him.

He eventually came over, without a word, touched me gently on my shoulder and handed me a piece of folded paper. He went back to his friends as I opened it.

He had written me a beautiful poem.

It was sweet and gentle and made me smile through my tears. I can’t remember the words now, but it was one of those poems that pierce your heart like an arrow; full of love and hope, for me, a complete stranger.

I looked up and smiled my gratitude to him, he blushed and looked away. When he left, I touched his arm and gave him heartfelt thanks for his kindness. That experience taught me never to judge on appearances.

Later, back at my friend’s flat, other locals she knew dropped by, all they knew of my story was that I was feeling heart-broken and each of them, in their own way, tried their best to make me laugh, feel welcomed and, yes, loved.

We went to a tiny restaurant under the railway arches for dinner. The kitchen was open at the back of the room. I couldn’t eat and the chef noticed. He came out of the kitchen to ask me what was wrong.

My tear stained face told him all he needed to know.

“Comfort food for a broken heart, hey?” He said, gently.

I nodded.

He came back a while later with a bowl of creamy, buttery mashed potato, as light as a cloud and as comforting as a warm blanket. It was amazing and I gratefully ate it. So lovely for him to do that.

As night drew in and it was time to sleep, the worry that had been eating at me all day felt sharper than ever. I had heard nothing from Italy. He would have been there by now, he would have made contact with those people. I had been told to wait for a message, not to call. It was agony.

I took an offered diazepam to sleep.

As the drug filed my veins with what felt like hot tea, I fell into grateful oblivion.