This week, I flew back briefly from LA to London to attend the launch of women-scorned.co.uk was at the Ritz. This is just one of many things to feature on the site.
My mother knew I was drunk because I was arguing with the Dyson.
It was Boxing Day 1999 and I was clearing up after guests had departed but bemoaning the fact that I would be spending Millennium Eve without my boyfriend of seven months.
On December 10th, it had all ended when I discovered he had been unfaithful.
I had, however, always doubted Ian's commitment, not least because he never unpacked his rucksack. Although we were not living together, he spent a lot of time at my place in central London, and the rucksack took up residence in my wardrobe, stuffed with papers, railway tickets and bills dating back years. When Ian finished his morning wash and shave, the foams and potions would be returned to the rucksack and tied up. That doubt about commitment intensified during what was to be the last month of the relationship, because Ian's behaviour changed dramatically. One night, we were in Hung's, a Chinese restaurant in London’s Wardour Street in Soho, and he said: "I don't think we've got a future."
I hadn't even rolled my first duck pancake. He had said the same thing one morning after our first two months together, too, only on that occasion I didn't have a duck pancake for comfort. He then telephoned me at four in the afternoon, crying and saying he was sorry. This time, in Hung’s, it sounded more sinister. When we left the restaurant and reached Brewer Street, he pushed me against the wall and said “F*** off, you know where you live."
"Ian?" I said, mystified at the transformation. "F*** OFF! YOU KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!"
Something's not quite right here, I thought. I could be perceptive like that. Then he started coming
in later and later until, on the night of 8th December, he didn't come in at all. I waited until
mid-day and rang him at work, an office in Golden Square that he shared with his business partner.
"Where were you last night?"
"I stayed with a friend."
"My singing friend."
"Your female singing friend?"
I had first heard of the singing friend when we were on a luxury holiday in Aix en Provence (paid for by me), shortly after I had extended my overdraft to put money into Ian’s French bank account to keep it in credit. She rang him on his mobile, shortly before I walked in the square, failed to notice the pavement rising in the middle, and fell flat on my face on the other side. Three Frenchmen had rushed to my aid, followed a long way behind by Ian, who put an arm round me and said: "Aah. I've never seen you hurt before."
He sounded disappointed and smiled, as if in the hope of more, possibly life-threatening injuries to come. Now, he was non-committal. "Umm."
"I think we need to talk."
I said that we needed to talk, because that was what they always said in EastEnders and, being a
television critic and writing a soap column, I learned about the language of relationships mostly second hand. I continued our conversation in soap language of the "We need to talk right now, so will you come to a totally inappropriate public place where you can humiliate me and everyone will be able to see me cry" variety, and, within half an hour he was at the Groucho Club.
"So, your singing friend. Did you sleep with her?"
"No, of course not."
"You've been totally faithful to me since I met your parents at Cambridge?" - the time we had always said our relationship started "properly".
Ian looked me straight in the eye and did not blink: "Yes."
I knew he had something to hide because he wasn't blinking. Months previous, I had told him that I knew he was lying because he was blinking; but now his trying not to blink in order not to give himself away was even more of a giveaway than his blinking had been.
"I think you're lying. Can you look me straight in the eye and tell me that you have not been unfaithful to me?"
He didn't blink. "All right, I tried to sleep with her but she said no and I slept the night on the
"What colour was it?"
I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to feel better, and when he left, I rang my mother, sobbing,
and related the story.
She was, as ever, where her children's feelings are concerned, fair: "Get him out of the flat now."
And so it was, two days later, I sat with Ian in Soho Pizzeria in Beak Street, having ignored my
mother's advice, still believing that there was hope for the relationship.
I had a vegetarian pizza with chillies; Ian had something with a runny egg on top. Whatever pizza he chose, he always asked for a runny egg on top. Suddenly, I hated his rusk mentality. I half expected him to ask for the pizza to be cut into soldiers. Neither of us spoke. Then:
"I know there's something wrong," I said. "Have you met someone else?"
"No." Several blinks, followed by a sustained period of unblinking.
"I think you have."
Blinking that fanned the air and nearly lifted the hair from my scalp.
"You have, haven't you?"
He nodded. "She's a nurse . . . She's in Boston at the moment."
"I don't give a damn (well, it was a bit stronger than that) where she is. Where did you meet her?" "In a pub."
"How old is she?"
"She's older than you," he said, as if this would, with my having just completed my 40th year, been of some comfort.
"Have you slept with her?"
Yes. There it was. The admittance. The evidence. The confirmation. I took one look at his ginger hair, stood up and, taking my coat from the back of the chair, said: "I'm not going to cry. I'm going to Bath (where I was living) tomorrow and I want your stuff out of the flat over the weekend." And I left. Dignified. Assured. In some part of me, relieved: that I was not mad, even though the unfaithful creep had made me feel I was.
I walked along Beak Street, the pain in my chest strong, my breathing short, but holding back the
tears. I started to make my way back to the flat, but after five minutes turned around and walked back an into the restaurant.
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME, YOU B******?" I cried. Ian was still sitting there; so were both pizzas.
"Is she funny?"
"Is she intelligent?"
"Yes, Bonnie's very intelligent."
"Bonnie? Bonnie the nurse from Boston?" I started to laugh hysterically. "Bonnie the unfunny nurse from Boston, who you sleep with after one meeting in a pub?"
I left again. I came back once again. "BONNIE!" Then I left and never saw him again. Back at home, I piled all his stuff into the middle of the room and left a note. I told him I didn't deserve this
treatment and that I expected repayment of the money (now well in excess of £3,000) that he owed me. When I returned to London on Monday morning, the flat was empty of his stuff. The only memory was an egg-cup in the shape of a sheep I bought him in Aix en Provence. I sat on the floor and used my fists to try to beat the pain in my stomach that was the absence of him.
The truth is, he was never right for me, and I knew it. Shortly after I met him, I told a friend: “He’s not that attractive, he’s overweight, short, he has ginger hair, he’s boring, he doesn’t make me laugh and the sex is crap.”
“Then dump him,” said my friend, Simon.
“But he’s 37 and single.”
“But it doesn’t mean he’s the right 37 and single.”
It didn’t. And he wasn’t. But that still didn’t stop it hurting.
I never made the same mistake again. I made different mistakes.
Because that’s what we do.