I forgot to mention, of my aborted dinner date last week, I’d said to David – once I realised he had come to dinner with a negative, combative attitude – that sending me a cross, nasty email because he’d read in this column I’d emailed the War Reporter over Christmas was out of order. ‘We are not a couple,’ I told him. ‘We haven’t been a couple for six months. We aren’t even friends. If you had decided to get married in the interim, I wouldn’t be able to say anything. It would be none of my business.’
‘In theory,’ he said, mumbling through his beard. Even if he had been upset, he should have kept it to himself. Why express to me every single emotion he ever feels? He had me, then he lost me through his own ill-tempered indifference.
He texted me late on the night he stormed off for the second time in less than an hour, but I couldn’t be bothered to open it. I’ll open it now, shall I? Oooh! No apology for ruining an evening I could have happily spent with a real friend in London, but another attack. ‘Unfortunately you found it appropriate to insult my friends two weeks ago in print. I was trying to ask you to apologise to them, but I don’t think you heard in your attempt to win an argument. This can still be rescued but you will have to show some contrition. X’
Oh, bugger off. How condescending, and he ends it with a kiss! I now realise all the times I meticulously counted his kisses on missives when they were automatic, what he sends to anyone. Same as he always called me Sweetie; he called Garnier Fructose woman that, too.
Anyway, I’ve been reading Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life. His PR sent the book to me, not long after his trouncing of Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. The PR added a note: ‘Jordan would love to know what you think!’ I’m sure he wouldn’t. If he thinks Oxbridge-educated Cathy Newman is dim, God only knows what he’d make of me. But I do actually love (and understand!) his book. The chapter headings strike a chord: ‘Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.’ And: ‘Make friends with people who want the best for you.’ A sentence, too, sums up exactly what happened to me, why I am where I am now. ‘Chaos is the new place and time that emerges when…malevolence reveals its paralysing visage, even in the confines of your own home.’ As we know, malevolence happened in my own home, exactly ten years ago this month. And I am STILL struggling with the fallout.
The book wisely tells me I need to stop doing whatever is bad for me. I have already started to treat myself like someone I’m responsible for helping: I’ve given up alcohol. I’m vegan. I try to do one thing a week as a treat: an oily bath, a film I’ve been dying to see, a walk in the woods. I had a blinding flash of realisation on that last supper with David. Because he had a beard, it was as though I was seeing him for the very first time. He was a stranger. We have nothing in common. And all the desire seeped from my body to puddle on the ground. Any lasting affection I had for the ghost of the boy I fell in love with in 1983 was exorcised.
On Sunday morning, I got an email from a friend who lives in York. We’d met at one of my book readings a few years ago and stayed in touch ever since. She wrote: ‘Congratulations on adding another beautiful dog to your family. Did you read about that Welsh farmer who hanged his collie? I’d happily flog him to death. Come on, Liz, there are daffodils in bloom, the flowering cherry is in bud and the birds are choosing their nesting sites, so look in the mirror and be proud of what you see: a beautiful, successful, lovely woman, and give your little ones a big hug. And when the spring sun shines (it’s going to do so sometime soon) go out and have fun.’
You see? A friend who wants the best for me. Have fun. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.