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 8th, 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...more