73. Reasons to be Cheerful

Ripe cherry blossom against a pure blue sky.

Finding a sweet in my coat pocket when I’m stuck in traffic, on my commute home.

The smile of recognition from someone I forgot I ever knew.

A cherubic, fat baby holding out its arms to me for a cuddle.

Money in a birthday card.

The smell of silly putty.

Stepping off the plane into the heat.

Walking into an air-conditioned shop.

Reaching for each other’s hands.

Building a fire from scratch.

Seeing someone famous on the tube.

Hot bath towels straight from the drier.

When he perches on the edge of a table so his knees are either side of my hips and we are face to face.

A pile of birthday cards on top of a present.

A small child pottering around the garden.

The moment of leaving work the day before I go on holiday.

Camping at a music festival as a teenager.

Waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon on a Sunday morning.

Old photos of you that I’ve never seen before.

Seeing a clock change from 2️⃣3️⃣:5️⃣9️⃣ to 0️⃣0️⃣:0️⃣0️⃣

Popping bubble wrap.

Kicking up leaves in the park.

Singing along to a 30-year-old pop song, that I’ve not heard since then.

Twilight in the summertime.

Watching my dad skim pebbles across a lake.

🎈 Trying to keep a balloon in the air as long as possible.

Feeling a cashmere sweater.

A perfectly ripe avocado.

Playing with Lego.


58. Not on a School Night.

People, jobs, houses and food in real life are hardly ever like they are on the telly. So why do so many believe that the sex they have will be exactly like it is on screen? The most popular misconception (ha! no pun intended) is that people go out for a massive dinner and loads to drink on a date, and then find they are completely, intimately, perfectly compatible their first time with each other.

All we ever wanted as teenagers was privacy. We had so much free time but no-where to go for an hour of uninterrupted, guaranteed privacy, without annoying little siblings or parents poking their noses round the door without knocking. Couldn’t parents remember how they felt when they were young? This was biology and wasn’t illegal. We were over the age of consent and were a loving, committed couple who genuinely cared for each other. No drama, but respect and adoration. Wasn’t this exactly the kind of first love you hoped for?

Teenagers are going to have sex. You can try to think you can stop them or you can give them a little space now and then.

When we were happy, flirty, relaxed, and the kissing went on for ages, we were sometimes tainted with anxieties or alcohol. Too much pot made me feel lazy, hungry and sick. Safe experimentation. A real Shakespearean tragedy.

The opportunities at college were endless and fun, but does anyone ever really make the most of those few years? After college, not so much. I have no interest in any form of identifying potential partners where choosing someone based on their looks is initially the most important factor (niteclubs, internet dating) I think I’d miss out on too many people I’d find fascinating.

Goalposts move again. We now have as much privacy as we like, but no time.

I haven’t had a shower today.

I’m ovulating in a couple of days, so it will be amazing then. We should wait.

I was supposed to have an early night tonight because I’m really busy tomorrow.

We should have done it before I ate so much food.

It’s timing, luck and being open to trusting someone with your heart. I know people who say they want to meet someone, but appear (to me) to be afraid of making any moves or looking as if they are even interested, because they’ve been hurt and disappointed, so now want to remain in control. The one who is least invested in the relationship holds the power. They make potential partners prove their worthiness, or play passive aggressive emotional games. Isn’t risk a part of love?

Holding out in case someone better comes along is a waste of a chance at building a life with someone you already love. If ‘the one’ did exist, then it is a miraculous coincidence that so many people find their one and only soul mate, who is exactly the same age as them, living in their very own home town, maybe even at the same place of work or school. What are the odds on that?

Sorry, but meet cutes are for teen drama Sunday afternoon rom coms. I’ve never heard of anyone ever meeting their dream partner like this.

“She felt a jolt of electricity as their hands lightly touched when they both reached for the same avocado from the display in Wholefoods. Shy blushing smiles over soya lattes an hour later, they made plans to meet up for brunch and walk their dogs together at the weekend.”

*clicks fingers in the air twice* Hello? Your life is not a Molly Ringwald film.

No-one could ever possibly know us like we do. No two years are ever the same. We make our own rules for ourselves that are no-one else’s business but our own. Why would we ever compare our lives to other people? If we do make comments then it’s usually “thank god we’re nothing like them”.

“No it’s not like any other love.

This one’s different because it’s us.”

‘Hand in Glove’ by The Smiths 

And if we all do end up in ‘San Junipero’, then we can all live out our parallel lives for eternity, with those travelling on other paths that we’ve met in this life.

28. Baby Barista

Every few months, someone ‘gets parole’ and gets out of this shithole. This time, it’s Lorna. She had an unlucky start in life, was a teenage single parent, who got glassed in the face accidentally, by someone who thought she was someone else. She said she found the whole criminal justice experience fascinating, so did a law degree at night school over six years, and is now leaving to do her pupillage at some Employment Law firm. She wants to be a criminal barrister, and I have no doubt she’ll be brilliant at it.

The scar runs around her eyebrows right down her left cheek, and over the bridge of her nose is a tiny ridge of lighter coloured, hard skin. It doesn’t bother her usually, only when she wears sunglasses. She says it makes people take her seriously. Every so often, some well-meaning person will tell her about the benefits of some oil that reduces scarring or gently enquires why she never had plastic surgery. She’s so stoic, and will say things like, “it could have been worse, and made me appreciate what I’ve got now, and not what I had.”

I’ve never met a more hard-working woman in my life. Full-time job, mother of a tweenie, studying for a degree, learning karate, and has a part-time job as a barista. “Men can wait” she says, “I haven’t got time to look after anyone else right now.” She was only a kid herself, when she had her son, and his dad is a “bit of an arsehole” but she doesn’t stop him seeing the boy (when he can be bothered to) because she doesn’t “want to be the bad guy in all this.” Her son has already been let down by him loads of times and he is coming to the realisation on his own that his dad is a dick. There was a brief few years, when the boy was out of nappies but not yet bored of going to Maccy D’s every week, when her ex tried to make an effort, but teaching a boy to play pool is not really being a proper father.

Sid thought he was being clever by writing the same thing in every leaving card, including Lornas.

There we are then, perhaps I should say, old friend, farewell! See you next time!

His acronyms might have been funny the first time round, but they’re wearing thin now, Still, they’re better than the crappy “best wishes” and “good luck” or the even slightly witty, “see you in court!” She’s up for it and taking it all in good spirits, and is even wearing the ‘trainee barista’ t shirt someone gave her.

Lorna’ ex is ironically, up in court next week for some offences called “outraging public decency” and “voiding urine.” Apparently he was caught shagging some woman in a car in the multi story. In broad daylight. After leaving the police station, he then went out on the lash to celebrate and the very same copper caught him taking a piss in the street. He said he had some weed on him, but they confiscated it and let him off for that.

Sid said, “he likes getting his cock out in public, doesn’t he?”

Lorna laughs and says, “you’ll never guess what he does for a living? Not really a living though. Go on, guess? What kind of no-effort job could a lazy, vain man get?”

Sid shakes his head.

“Fucking life model. Twenny quid an hour to stand stark bollock naked in front of a load of bored housewives and then he gets to shag one of them afterwards in her car!”

A few months later, I see her in the street and we have a quick chat to catch up. She tells me that her first prosecution was a bail application in Crown Court, and she couldn’t even do that one because she was ‘professionally embarrassed’. Turned out, the defendant was one of her ex’s friends.