It’s a small world, isn’t it? There’s a virus outbreak nearly 6,000 miles away and I am now unable to go on a date with a new man. I had planned to meet P from Westcliff for lunch at my local country house hotel. I’ve just looked at the website, and although it will be open later this month, only those staying overnight will be eligible to eat in the restaurant, even if the table is outside in howling wind. To me, this seems insane. And also, it is as though the hotel is trying to push me into a relationship with an overnight stay, when all I want is a purple sprouting broccoli and hazelnut salad, a glass of wine and a little conversation. I don’t want to have sex. I am like an Olympic athlete*, now gearing up for the summer of 2021. I am just not ready.
I texted P and told him that even if we were allowed to eat and not stay, I am barred from the hotel anyway.
‘I’m looking forward to hearing why you are barred. We could always book a table in my name, or have a plan B.’
‘Well. My dog Gracie did a runny poo in the bar and I used a linen napkin to clean it up and put it in a bin. And I complained about the quality of the spa treatments and the manager emailed me, not to apologise or ask how they could do better, given I’m an expert, but to say, “Don’t come back as the therapist found you intimidating!” I can always wear a hat and sunglasses, though the presence of Gracie might be a giveaway.’
He replied, ‘I can understand the intimidating bit. Hopefully the manager is different now. x’
Anyway, how are we liking the sound of this new one, apart from the fact he doesn’t take my side? I need to know, as I obviously have zero judgment. I think I crazily hang on to people, not just because I’m worried I’m too old to ever get another boyfriend, but because I am loyal. I don’t give up.
Anyway, this morning I had my final cognitive behavioural therapy session with Philip Naniewski. He said two things in the last session that resonated. I told him that if I ever do something enjoyable, I know I will be punished. I went to the Tarr Steps one afternoon when I lived on Exmoor and returned to find my two remaining chickens had been killed by a fox and left in a hedge (the fox later returned to collect them). Last September, on my birthday, I decided to treat myself. I booked a raft of treatments at a spa near Harrogate. For the first time in my career I got Nic to post an ‘out of office’ notice on my email. When I logged on the next day, I discovered I’d missed an important work assignment. When I was doing my A-levels, I planned to go to a disco in Southend to meet one of the students, a boy called Ali. I phoned my mum to let her know, and she was crying. ‘Your grandfather has been knocked off his bike and killed. You need to come home.’ Ali subsequently got off with my friend Karen.
I told Philip this and he told me everyone has problems, but the key is to engage a different mindset so as not to be overwhelmed. I told him I am angry at not owning a sofa or a bed after so much hard work, and he sent me a quote from the Buddha: ‘Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’
But it’s hard to let go, isn’t it? Hard not to think disaster is waiting around every corner. I told him when I’m in a cinema, I can’t wait for the film to end so I can race home and make sure it’s not burned to the ground. It’s no way to live. I think Twitter makes me worse. I am always reading of other women whose books have sold 700,000 copies, or that my former intern has been made editor of a newspaper. I never used to be like this. I would help others up the ladder, improve their work, turn up to their Booker nomination party. Now I just think, why am I such a failure? Why am I overlooked? Why does no one help me?
* Without the abs, obvs.
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