I left Essex in a hurry all those years ago. I got on a bus with a bag and a boy. I couldn't stand the desolation of living with my pre-Prozac mum. I'm not even sure she noticed I had gone for about 6 weeks. The boy was going to university, so I just decided to go with him. He was grateful for the company in a new town and grateful for the sex too. At least I hope he was. He had a shared house with 3 other students and they didn’t seem to mind me being around, even if I did mind them being around but hey, they were paying rent and I wasn’t. Me and the boy sat around, fucked around, drank and smoked. It was like living in a dream world compared to being back at home. After a month or so of doing absolutely fuck all, I decided to get a job. I pretended to be a student and invented a course that I was studying. I’d forget what I had told various people along the way and ended up pretending to be learning about everything from media studies to archaeology. I even made up a course called mythical studies which of course was entirely mythical. I worked in PIzza Hut for a while as a really terrible waitress. I hated it at first but when I realised that the coke cups that most the kitchen guys were sucking a straw from were actually filled with wine, things became a lot more bearable, at least until I tripped up and landed on someone’s table and laughed my drunken head off. After that it was a clothes shop (6 weeks), a bar (4 months), a shoe shop (3 months) and so on and so on, I can’t even fucking remember.
By then the thing with the boy had ended. My ever increasingly manic episodes and inability to give him any money for bills, led to a gradual parting. I ended up taking my bag and going to live with the mum of a bloke I had worked with in the bar. She had a spare room and charged me a ridiculously low rent. I don’t know if she hadn’t checked the going rate for a room since 1972 or if she just liked the company. Valerie was twice my age and at the time, became the best mum I’d never had. She would cook for me and she taught me how to cook. At the time I could just about manage toast and that was about it. She introduced me to the preparation of actual meals and I fucking loved it. We would sit and watch telly together some evenings. I even started getting into Eastenders. I never took blokes back to the house, it would have felt horribly disrespectful to her. I stayed with her for nearly two years. The fact that I liked her so much meant that I did pay her low rent every week without fail and it kinda had a calming effect on me. I still had episodes but they seemed to be more manageable during this time, like they lost some of their power for a while. I carried on with a string of shop and bar jobs until I got the job in the accounts office. Fuck knows why they took me on given that I had no experience. I think they were just glad that someone applied. The money was better than shop money and it was boring but easy. After my few months there and then my chablis day in the sun, I signed on for a while. I hated the idea of it. Then I met Sash’s dad and accidentally became the world’s most ill suited mother. Valerie was so happy that I was having a baby, just as if she was the expectant grandmother, which of course she may as well have been. Valerie died a month before Sash was born. She had super aggressive breast cancer and didn’t get to see her 49th birthday or my baby girl. It’s still the only funeral I have ever been to.