A man, an almost man and a never-gonna-happen man

NSFW and TMI warnings. Seriously folks, I am totally oversharing here, so feel free to skip this one if you don’t enjoy reading about Connor’s sex life.

I’m back, bitches.

My first year in London was such a Year of Men. In the ten years before I moved to London, I’d been with three guys in total. I’d had a seven-year freeze from 2007 to 2014 when there’d been no guys at all.

And then I moved to London and slept with eleven men in the first year and went on dates with two more. I was living a life I never really believed was possible. I was feeling feelings I hadn’t felt before and I was confident in a way I hadn’t been before and I was seeing myself in a whole new light. And then Dad died and the wind went completely out of my sails and I buried myself in work and shut the world out and gained three stone and didn’t really try with men, though I kept telling myself I would.

But now I’m back.

I don’t know if you all remember my birthday man from last year. On my 36th birthday, I was super-broke and living in a hostel, and didn’t really know anyone well enough to spend the day with, so it was shaping up to be a depressing day, but I decided to give myself a present of a man, so I got on my apps and after a bit of work I found a maths teacher who invited me to his place. He was thrillingly hot, masculine and dominant. And kinky. I celebrated my birthday on my knees, wearing a gimp mask he put on me without asking. He tried to fit a dog collar around my neck too. He also gave me my first ever dose of poppers. I left his house on a high, feeling disgusted but also glorying at my transgression and at his hotness.

The maths teacher has never really been out of touch since. Over the last eleven months, he has messaged me at least once every three weeks or so and we’ve arranged to meet again at least three times, though it hasn’t happened. Until now. He has been very keen though. It is gratifying to have a handsome, successful, hard-bodied young man gagging to see you naked again.

As I’ve managed to get London Connor off the ground again now it’s 2018, it was time to get back on the sex horse again and the maths teacher was a relatively easy place to start. So for the first time in eleven months, I didn’t wait for a message from him. I sent the message and we set up a date. Like, not a date in the wine-and-a-meal sense, more a date in the arrive-at-his-house-and-be-naked-within-two-minutes sense of the word date.

In our months of messaging, I had got the message across that maybe gimp masks and dog collars weren’t necessarily my thing. And so this week’s meet-up was quite different from last year’s one.

Don’t get me wrong, he was still very dominant, but I like that. But this time was much more my kind of pace.

I was on a high for the next three days. It’s good to be back. It’s good to be London Connor again.

And I was sucking Strepsils for 48 hours afterwards because a large penis hitting the back of one’s throat can leave one rather sore.

*****

I’ve been talking to other men online too. One man seemed both polite and eager and we exchanged numbers. His desires were unorthodox. But men who like men who look like me tend to have unorthodox desires. I usually go for the dominant man, but this man wanted me to dominate. I thought that this might be a fun experiment.

He very specifically wanted me to sit on his chest so that he would struggle to breathe. I’m quite used to that. I’ve been with at least three other men who wanted that, and I’m happy to do it. Sitting doesn’t take much effort for me. I think being squeezed/smothered/crushed/enveloped in fat is actually quite a common fetish in the chubby chaser scene. But this man wanted more than that. He wanted me to sit on his chest and pin his arms down over his head and lean forward and batter his face with my belly. He asked on a number of occasions that I be sure to let him struggle and beg to be let go for a while before I actually got off him. After that, I would give him a blow job.

That would be new. He described the scene over and over again in his messages. It was such a specific fantasy and one he’d clearly been harbouring for years. It would be shame to disappoint him.

He asked if I could wear nothing but a g-string and a pair of Doc Martens while smothering him with my belly. I told him I didn’t own either, but would be happy to wear anything he provided. I really am very accommodating.

Over the week while we messaged back and forth, making arrangements to meet in his place in far North London, he kept suggesting that we talk on the phone. Ugh. No. I don’t want to discuss his fantasies on the phone. I kept making up excuses for why we couldn’t speak on the phone.

I can’t stand phone sex. I’m fine with sexting. You can send a dirty picture or text someone that you’re touching yourself while you’re actually marking essays or watching Netflix. But phone sex requires more of your attention. And who talks on the phone nowadays anyway?

It was 11:00 on Sunday morning and I was due to meet this man at 2:00 in his house. He phoned me and this time I answered. He sounded nice – polite, a little posh. He wanted to make sure I was coming. I asked if it would be OK if I didn’t get there  till 2:30. He told me he’d prefer I was there at 2:00 because he had to go out at 5:00. What on earth did he think we’d be doing that would take three hours? How much smothering could I possibly do? I said it was fine. It was over an hour away, but I could get plenty of reading done on the Tube. He asked, “Do I detect a Scottish accent?” LOL No he didn’t. He asked to make sure I’d wear something tight. I agreed to. My phone reception was bad and I had to shower, so I ended the call.

What follows is a transcript of our WhatsApp chat at 11:30 am.

HIM: I was just thinking I would be more comfortable if we get the chance to chat first over maybe a drink or a pub lunch and especially as you’re travelling far. Can we rearrange for another weekend if that’s ok? The weekend after next?

ME: Oh. That’s a pity. But if you need that to feel comfortable, that’s fine. I understand. I don’t have any plans for that weekend. So let’s say yes.

HIM: I’m mega keen but I’m respectful and would be good to chat a bit first and get to know each other well too. If all goes well, maybe we could meet up regularly.

ME: Sure. I get it. It’s good to be people as well as objects. No problem.

HIM: I’m genuine and well aware of your journey to get here too.

ME: I know. Thanks

HIM: Would you like a quick chat on the mobile?

ME: Reception is really bad here. And I don’t really like talking on the phone.

HIM: Oh shame. How come you don’t like the phone?

ME: I didn’t think anyone did. It’s weird. For me.

HIM: What didn’t anyone do?

ME: Like talking on the phone. It’s very 1950s.

HIM: Well, when you’re far away, it’s better than text and you get to know someone better. Are you good with me enjoying and being turned on by your fat?

ME: Yes. Totally. I like men liking my fat.

HIM: I will love your fat. Will make me cum so hard.

Anyway, that was last weekend. I’m still due to meet him next weekend.

My life is entirely surreal to me.

*****

I was getting on the 118 bus outside Brixton station the other day. I sat down at the back of the bus, trying to make my feet as small as possible, as there were two bags of half-eaten McDonalds on the floor.

A good-looking slender young man sat down opposite me, also pulling his feet in to avoid the half-eaten burgers. I got the book I’m reading at the moment out of my bag. He looked across and said, “That’s a great book.” I agreed and told him I only had five pages to go. He commented that I must already know the twist then. He smiled at me and got a book out of his bag to read himself. I cursed myself inwardly. I hadn’t read his book. I couldn’t comment.

He looked very happy to be reading. But I was in Hell opposite him and found it hard to get through those last five pages. I was getting off the bus in ten minutes and I needed him to know that we would be perfect for each other. I tried to think of a sentence with lots of words with the letter ‘r’ so I could say it and he’d know I was Irish and then he’d ask where I was from and we’d talk and laugh and exchange numbers and then we’d meet again and chat about books and then chastely cuddle and then maybe eventually move to the next step – of reading to each other in bed.

But I couldn’t think of the right sentence and I just sat there pretending to read until we got to my stop. It wasn’t to be. I’m not Katherine Heigl and the 118 bus isn’t where RomComs start.

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Priorities

It’s New Year’s Eve and what better day to reflect than today?

I don’t think there are many things about my life now that would surprise my friends from when I was at university studying law fifteen years ago. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I’m not a lawyer. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I’ve lived and worked in many countries. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I see myself as a tortured creative soul, trying to be a writer. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I’m still very overweight. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I have a comical and disastrous love life. I don’t think they’d be surprised that I’ve ended up in London.

I do, however, think they’d be surprised at how determinedly solitary my life is. I was a very sociable 19-year-old, moving across campus slowly, because I’d have to stop and greet someone every two metres. I was “famous” in college. Now, I have become a resolute introvert. On Friday evenings, I find myself leaving work excited because I don’t have to speak to anyone again until Monday. I’m not saying I never socialise. I do. But I don’t socialise a lot. And I tend to do what’s easiest. I’ll go out with my colleagues after work and happily drink and gossip for hours, but I’ve made no effort at all to reconnect with old friends I have who are living in London. I’ve taken very few opportunities to meet up with people here. When I go to the cinema, I go alone. When I go to see a West End show, I go alone. When I go to a restaurant, I go alone. And I kind of love it. I take great pleasure in my own company.

I can’t imagine marriage. Having someone else always there. All the time. Having someone else move things round in the fridge. Having someone else squeeze the toothpaste tube in the wrong place. Having someone else know what time I go to sleep, what time I wake up, someone hearing me go to the toilet, someone watching me eat, someone knowing what I eat. It just seems like prison to me.

I like being alone. And I don’t want that to end. But I know it’s not good for me. My soul needs more people. And I haven’t really been doing the social things I wanted to do in London. I attempted to go clubbing once to a fat gay men’s night but lost my nerve and went home. There are so many choices in “bear” clubbing here. I haven’t tried any of them. I did once arrange to meet a man in a gay sauna. And although he mightn’t have been my Prince Charming, I loved the sauna. Did I ever go back? No. Just too chicken. I’m obsessed with drag queens. I live in London. Have I been to a single drag night since I got here? No. It’s all just too scary. I joined an LGBTQ reading group. It meets once a month. I read the book for it twice. And twice I failed to go. Once I let work take over and stayed in the office instead of going to my book club. The other time, I did go to the pub where the group was meeting. But I chickened out. I sat in another part of the bar and looked at the adorably earnest middle-aged lesbians discussing queer sci fi across the room and just felt too fat and awkward to say hello. I went home, swearing I would go next time.

And London Connor kind of came off the rails in July/August anyway. I’d been doing so well. I was being brave. I was meeting so many strange men from the internet. I was writing. I was putting myself out there, whether by self-publishing my book, or blogging, or YouTubing. I was going to a new West End show every week. I was losing weight. I lost four stone and it was easy! I was buying lovely new clothes. I was happier than I’ve been in years and years.

And then, after one of my last visits home to see my dying father this summer, everything screeched to a halt. I started gaining again. I’ve now gained back most, if not all, of the weight I lost. I stopped meeting men from the internet. It’s been over two months. That’s not London Connor. I started bingeing again. I stopped writing. I stopped making videos.

There’s only one area of my life where I snapped back into shape very impressively. And that’s work, which hasn’t been negatively affected at all by my bereavement. I’ve been working like crazy for the last few months – way too much, in fact. I’ve surprised myself at how much I like this job. I left Vietnam in 2015, swearing never to take another job in teacher training management and that’s exactly what this job is. And I love it. I feel invested in it. But it’s come to mean too much. This isn’t what I came to London for. The week before Christmas, I found myself leaving work at 10:00 pm one night. What on earth is that about? There wasn’t any particularly good reason. It was just a regular Tuesday. Everyone else was gone by 5:30. I tell myself that it’s ok that I stay late. I often arrive late at work as well, getting in between 10:00 and 10:30 for a 9:00 start, and no one minds because they know I do way more than my 40 hours. I’ve worked 12 unpaid Saturdays this year, as well as frequently staying till after 8:00 pm, at least three days a week, and no one ever asked me to. It’s all come from me. And maybe it was just something I could control as my family imploded in the run-up to and after my dad’s death.

And I do love my job and I enjoy doing it and I’m glad I have it, but it’s not the reason I’m in London. In 2018, I’m going to work 9:00 to 5:00. I’m taking back my evenings. And that’s just one of my resolutions.

From reading this, you can guess what some of my other resolutions are. I’ve made a lot. Big ones.

I have a love/hate relationship with New Years. I hate New Years parties. Tonight I’m going to stay at home and once again watch the New Year’s Eve episode of The OC where Ryan has to get to the party on time to kiss Marissa by midnight so she doesn’t end up kissing Evil Oliver. It’s a great New Year’s Eve tradition that I would encourage you all to join in with.

And tomorrow, I’ll start work on my long list of resolutions. I do love a resolution. And the years in my life that have gone better tended to be the ones where I reached for the sky.

So keep an eye on Connor folks. 2018 is going to be his year. You heard it here first.

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Tales from the Tube #347

Friday night at 10:00 pm-ish – The Victoria Line – King’s Cross/St Pancras

Two young men, about twenty years old, jumped onto the Tube just before the doors closed.

The taller one, who was wearing hipster glasses, apologised for bumping into another passenger in his hurry to get on board. The passenger didn’t acknowledge him. As the two young men moved to the end of the carriage, the tall one said very loudly for all the carriage to hear “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m from The North. I forgot that London people don’t talk to each other.”

Three forty-something-year-old women started cracking up laughing. One of them said to the young man, “You can talk to us, love. We’re from The North too.” The entirety of the following conversation was more than loud enough for the whole carriage to hear.

Glasses Guy: “Where in The North are you from?”

Middle-aged woman: “We’re from Newcastle”

Glasses Guy (gesturing to the other shorter guy, who hadn’t said anything yet): “John has a friend from Sunderland”

Middle-aged woman (cackling): “Does he have eleven toes?”

John: “I don’t know how many toes he has, but he has a tiny penis. I don’t know if that’s a Sunderland thing.”

Middle-aged woman (crying with laughter, pointing at one of her friends): “Her husband is from Sunderland. She can tell you if that’s a Sunderland thing.”

Other woman: Blushes and guffaws.

Glasses Guy: “I haven’t been in London since my parents took me here on holidays when I was a child. Where are you going?”

Middle-aged woman: “We have a hotel opposite Victoria.”

Glasses Guy: “We’re meeting a friend at Brixton. He told us that we just have to get off at the last stop. [Turning to the rest of the carriage] Is Brixton the last stop?”

All the Londoners look intensely at their phones. I briefly meet his eyes and say “Yes.”

Glasses Guy: “A talking Londoner!”

He carries on talking to the women until we get to Victoria.

After they get off, we have four more stops with the two boys. At each stop, Glasses Guy greeted each passenger boarding by saying “Welcome to the Tube!” They all hurried to their seats, which just so happened to be at the opposite end of the carriage from him. And as the train leaves each station, Glasses Guy declares to the whole carriage: “It’s my first time on the Tube without my parents!” He and his short friend took a series of photos and selfies of themselves on the Tube, looking wistfully out the window, lying on the floor and wrapped around poles like they were Jessica Rabbit.

By the time we got to Brixton, I was sad they would no longer be in my life.

 

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Need to say

Grieving is a funny old process. You feel perfectly normal for hours on end and then, all of a sudden, you’re just submerged in sadness, and it might just last for five seconds or it might last for a lot longer and there seems to be no way of knowing which it’ll be.

Most of the time it’s fine I guess. And then sometimes it isn’t, and that’s how it’s meant to be.

The time I almost invariably start crying is in the shower. I suppose it’s the one time I don’t have background noise. I listen to podcasts while walking to the shower, and I turn them on again when I’m drying myself afterwards, but while I’m actually in the shower, it’s just me and my thoughts.

I cry for him and I cry for me. I cry that I won’t ever get to see him again, that I won’t ever say something that makes him laugh, or better, make him sit up in interest, because at the end of the day, I’m just a little boy who thinks his dad is the cleverest person he’s ever met and he just wants to please him. Death is very final. I already knew that, except I didn’t. I’ve known people who died before, but never anyone as close to me as my dad. I cry at the indignity of death, at the pain and powerlessness and discomfort of his last days. I cry because I know that I’ll die too. I cry because I didn’t say the goodbye I wanted to, and now I’ll never get the chance.

The last twice I saw my dad, I wanted to tell him two things.

My parents were both troubled by the fact that I’m not married and don’t have children and that I don’t have a mortgage. They wanted me not to be gay, and certainly not to live a gay life. But I remember my dad pleading with me when I came out to them not to allow it to be a barrier between me and them. I completely failed at that. I have a twenty-year habit of lying to my parents about my life and I’ve never really been able to break that habit. Back when I was twenty one, my dad asked me to talk to him more, not to let our relationship become the relationship that Gar has with his father in Philadelphia Here I Come. (Yes, my dad was the kind of person who referenced literature as a way to discuss emotion.) And ours was never as bad as the relationship Gar had with his father, but there was always a wall. A wall made of religion and sex. And I devastated my parents by doing a PhD and then not getting an academic job. They couldn’t understand why I went to Vietnam afterwards. They certainly couldn’t understand why I moved to my little house in Longford.

But I think Dad understood London. I was as honest as I could be with my parents. I told them I wanted to go and experience big city life and I wanted to write. Dad hadn’t approved of me leaving my job in Dublin so suddenly before I left for London, but he absolutely understood the desire to go to London and be a writer. He’d gone to London as a young man (among other adventures – I don’t know how many other young men from rural East Limerick went travelling around fascist Spain in the 1960s, but I’d bet he was one of the only ones.) He got it. He had nudge-nudge wink-wink conversations with me about how you could find anything you were interested in in a place like London. I don’t really know what he meant, but he was in favour of it.

And he understood wanted to go somewhere and write. He’d stopped in the last twenty-five years, but he used to write. I remember as a child my dad would shut himself in the spare bedroom with a typewriter. I don’t know what he wrote, other than that he sometimes sent radio plays off to the BBC. I don’t think anything ever came of them, but he liked the idea of me writing in London. I even told him that I was writing a book about walking the Camino and a young adult novel. My mother didn’t think much of either of these. I don’t think she’d consider either to be real writing, but my dad did, and every time we spoke, he’d ask “How’s the scribbling?” He was invested in this more than in anything I’d done since the 1990s. I even nursed the dream that maybe someday he could read something I’d written and maybe he would understand me a bit better and the wall between us might come down a bit.

He didn’t. The last twice I met my dad, I wanted to tell him two things. I wanted to tell him (1) I was happy in London and (2) that I was writing. I sat in the Mercy Hospital next to him as he was getting chemo the second last time I saw him. I squeezed his hand and told him about when I’d next be there, but I couldn’t tell him what I really wanted to say. And the next time I saw him was his last night alive, sitting next to him in hospital, and though he was weak and uncomfortable, he was able to have conversations. I only spoke to him about other people, not about me. I wasn’t brave enough to tell him what I wanted to. To tell him that I was OK, that I had found a good life. I didn’t know he’d be dead the morning after. I thought we still had a few days.

My brother asked if I wanted to give a eulogy from the altar at the funeral. It wouldn’t have been right. Dad’s funeral was very, very religious, exactly as he would have wanted it to be. There would have been no place for whatever godless tributes I could have offered. I waited.

Before leaving Ireland, I visited the graveyard. Finally, away from prayers and hymns and all the rest of the religious hubbub that separates me from my family, I could have a chat with my dad, as he lay in the ground. The clocks had changed and by the time I managed to go to the graveyard at 4:00 pm it was already kind of dark. I stood there. I cried and told him I was OK. I told him I was happy. I told him that London was good for me. I told him about being kissed and loved by men. I told him about what I’ve written. I was honest in a way I’ve never been.

I don’t think I believe in Heaven. I don’t know who or what I thought I was talking to through my tears in the dark drizzle of a Cork October Friday evening. But I needed to. And I’m glad I did.

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The reviews are in

So, my book about my Camino has been in the Amazon Kindle Store for about six months. And sales haven’t dried up. July was a bit dodgy, but other than that, I’ve held my own. It doesn’t take a lot to hold your own in the Kindle Store admittedly. You sell 5 or 6 copies in a day and you can find yourself in the top 10 for your category.

You can select lots of searchable keywords for your book on Amazon, but you can only pick two categories. One of mine is Non-fiction > Health and fitness > Exercise > Walking. This meant that when I first released the book, I could boast that I was the number 36 bestseller on the Amazon fitness chart, which made me laugh a lot.

Originally, the second category I chose was Non-fiction > Travel > Western Europe > Spain and Portugal, which meant I could find myself in the charts just ahead of old editions of the Rough Guide to Alicante. I recently changed this categorisation to Non-fiction > Biography and Autobiography > LGBT and yesterday I found myself at number 8 in the LGBT memoir charts, one ahead of Caitlyn Jenner, meaning I was LITERALLY keeping up with the Kardashians.

It’s given me another statistic to obsessively check. Obsessively. I keep refreshing the sales dashboard on Amazon. Having the internet in my pocket is dangerous. And I’m doing OK. Hundreds of people have now read my book, and most comfortingly, the number of sales have gone up every month for the last four months. It’s not going to make me rich, but I have actually earned some money from it. I get about £150 a month from it, which isn’t nothing. I just need to write another 19 books and I’ll be able to quit my job! I’ve reformatted the eBook and corrected a few typos and made it look a bit more professional in terms of layout etc. I’ve also added 50p to the price. Fingers crossed it doesn’t kill my sales.

As well as my sales stats, the other thing I can obsessively check is the reviews. There are currently 22 reviews on the UK Amazon page for the book. As far as I can make out, 5 of these are written by people who actually know me (thank you!), so 17 strangers have taken time out of their days and written reviews of my book. And by and large, they’re really good reviews. People say really lovely things. One person said it would make a great movie (ARE YOU LISTENING, HOLLYWOOD?) and others praise various other aspects. It gets me very excited to read these. One person only wrote a one-word review. It said “OK”, but most people seem more certain in their opinions than that. There are two very negative reviews there. One is criticising me for not being sufficiently respectful towards the religious aspect of it, and I can’t claim that this book would be a good one for religious people. The other review is full of hatred. After reading it, I couldn’t sleep and I was in a bad mood for three days. He calls me vapid, says the book is rubbish and that it has a clickbaity title (Does it?) and he says he’s delighted he only borrowed it from the Kindle Library and he’s happy he didn’t pay for it. Sucks to be him though, because Amazon pays me when you do that anyway. I really was taken aback at how personally I took the criticism though. I think I need to stop reading reviews, though I can’t imagine I’d be able to stop.

There are only two reviews of the book on the US site (Amazon.com, as opposed to Amazon.co.uk). One is a really nice one written by a friend, the other one is really angry one. It says I’m a terrible writer and only gave me one star. I didn’t take this review as personally as the one from the UK site though. This is because I clicked on this reviewer’s profile and it showed that they had previously given five stars to a book that claimed that the Trump presidency had been prophesied by Jesus. I don’t know if reviews matter, but I do know that while my UK sales have been consistently rising, my US ones have been consistently falling, although both started out around the same level last June.

I don’t sell much from the other Amazon sites. I’ve had a few copies sell on the Canadian, Australian, French, German and Spanish sites, but nothing significant, though one friend did leave a really nice review on the French site. It doesn’t stop me from checking all those sites for reviews all the time though, because in the absence of their own reviews, they default to my US reviews and not my UK ones and my giant ego can’t handle that.

The other place where people can rate and review the book is Goodreads, where a lot of people find it in the first place, as it’s listed in a Goodreads post of Camino books. I currently have 23 ratings and have 3.96 out of five stars. As I boasted on Facebook the other day, this means that I’m currently rated higher than ACTUAL SHAKESPEARE because Romeo and Juliet currently has a rating of 3.74 stars.

There are also three very nice reviews of my book on Goodreads, one from a friend and two from strangers, one of which starts “In the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to like Connor…” There is no way this reviewer, called Ian, thought I would read his review. Reading your own reviews is weird. It’s like eavesdropping on what strangers think about your life.

Does everyone do this? I presume they do. I presume Charles Dickens is up in Heaven eagerly craning his neck to see what edwardcullen4lyf389 thinks of Great Expectations on the Canadian Amazon site.

Anyway, I love this. I really, really do. Bad reviews kill me, and days where I don’t sell any copies kill me, but every single copy sold brings me joy. I feel electric inside just knowing that strangers are reading what I wrote.

People ask me if I do this again. Of course I will. I’m currently assembling and editing my blogposts from September 2011 in preparation for the book of the blog of my years in Hall. And remember the YA novel I was writing? That’s back too. So keep an eye out for news on them. I’m also going to record an audio version of the Camino book.

Most excitingly though, I’ve released my Camino book as an actual paperback. That’s right! If you go onto Amazon right now, you won’t just see the eBook, it’s also for sale as an actual real book! I ordered my own copy and I’ve been stroking it and smelling it all day. (Self-publishing is cruel. You have to pay for your own copy of your own book.) Anyway, it’s a real paper and ink book now, and yes, it’s self-published, but it looks real and I’ve been dancing around my flat all day with it.

Go on. Buy it. Buy it here. Order a copy for your auntie while you’re at it. Christmas is coming. Buy one for all your relatives It’s a real live book! YAAAAY! Buy it.

And thanks to everyone for the reviews and the encouragement. I love you all. Now, buy my book.

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Planes, trains, automobiles and a golf buggy

What follows are a few fragments of stories from journeys I have taken over the last few months when my blogging has been less than regular.

The 59 bus

When I’m feeling lazy, I get the 59 bus to work. It’s at least 15 minutes longer than getting a bus and then a Tube and then another Tube, which is the quickest way of getting to work, but it is very relaxing.

One morning, I was sitting on the bus, with my headphones on and my book open, radiating “don’t talk to me” vibes, when a woman in her twenties sat next to me. I moved my bag so she’d have enough space to sit next to me. She thanked me. She was a bit more effusive in her thanks than was necessary for what I had done. After a minute of two, she stood up and went for a walk around the bus. When she came back, she sat down in another seat. I’m not sure she realised it was a different seat.

Every few minutes she would get up and have a walk around the bus. Then, suddenly, she fell flat on her face. She said loudly, “I’m sorry for the fuss. I’m a little drunk.” Most of the passengers reacted well, getting out of their seats, helping her onto her feet, offering her water, but a middle-aged bald man in a suit who was standing in the middle of the bus (who sounded sober) (and incredibly camp) announced to the bus “She’s probably on drugs too.” No one reacted.

This was all just a preface to the main drama of the bus journey. As we were crossing Waterloo bridge, the bus stopped very suddenly in the middle of the street. There was a scream behind me and a bang in front of me. A toddler who’d been standing up on her seat in front of me was thrown to the floor when the bus had stopped. This was the source of the bang. After an eerie pause, the child bellowed and started crying volcanically loudly. Her mother cuddled and comforted her. It was clear the child was ok, but also clear that she’d had such a scare that she wasn’t going to stop crying any time soon.

The scream from behind me had come from the young drunk woman. Apparently she knew she was the one who had caused the bus to stop so suddenly. The driver charged down the bus to make sure we were all uninjured. He saw that we were ok and told us that the bus’s emergency brake had been activated because someone had forced open the back door while the bus was moving. No one was accused of opening the door, but it was clear that the drunk woman was commonly believed to be the culprit.

The driver started driving again. The toddler continued to bawl thunderously and the drunk women started crying too apologising profusely to the child’s mother and screaming at the bus driver that it was wrong that the bus had stopped so suddenly that the child had been thrown to the ground.

The camp bald man in a suit also started shouting at the driver, telling him that this was political correctness gone mad and the liberal nanny state reaching into all our lives and that we don’t need to be treated like babies and if a junkie wanted to open a door on a moving bus then she should be allowed to fall into moving traffic and there was no need for that to affect everyone else on the bus.

I think everyone was alright in the end. Life in London is non-stop drama. And men who wear suits are dicks.

Flying to Dublin

In September, I was flying to Dublin on a Friday morning for a close friend’s wedding.

Being me, I couldn’t just travel the night before and minimise drama. I ended up having to get up at 4:00 am for a 2:00 pm wedding.

I walked to the bottom of the hill and got the 118 bus to Brixton station and then the Victoria Line Tube to Tottenham Hale and then the train to Stansted. I arrived in Stansted about an hour before I was due to fly and presumed I would have plenty of time as I had already checked in and didn’t have any bags. I was, almost, wrong.

Security took forever to get through. First of all, I was interrogated about my fidget spinner. Of course I have a fidget spinner. Of course I do. I am a slave to every millennial youth trend that there is. And my fidget spinner just happens to be a metallic one that looks very weapon-y. The guard eventually allowed me to take it on the plane after putting it through the machine twice.

Then I managed to set off the alarm on the metal detector. I didn’t know what it could be. Maybe my nipple piercings? I wouldn’t want to remove those in the security line in Stansted. They put me into the body scanner and discovered that it was my right foot setting the alarm off. They made me take off my right sock and send that through the scanner. Seriously. And the guard got me to go back into the body scanner and I no longer triggered the alarm. This made no sense. It was just an ordinary Penney’s sock.

I made it, with both socks, both nipple piercings and my fidget spinner, just in time for my flight. Having already taken a bus, a Tube, a train and a flight, I still had to get to the wedding. I got the AirCoach bus to the city centre of Dublin and then a Luas (tram) to Tallaght and finally a taxi to the little church in the Dublin mountains where the lovely wedding was taking place.

I clearly wasn’t going to take a seventh type of transport that day. Wrong! I was. After the ceremony, a friend dropped me off at the hotel I was staying at that night so I could freshen up before the reception and so I could leave my backpack. I’d got up early that morning, so it’s possible that I had a little lie down and almost fell asleep and had to have a shower to wake myself up. I then had to run around Naas, looking for sellotape to wrap the present because I obviously hadn’t done that while I was still in London. I bought sellotape in SuperValu and leaned on a trolley to wrap the present. I slipped the roll of tape in my pocket and hailed a taxi.

The wedding was in a golf club/country estate. There were two main buildings, one was signposted as “Wedding Venue” and the other as “Hotel”. The gate to the “Wedding Venue” was closed, but the taxi driver told me he knew another way. He drove around for a few minutes and then we pulled up outside a beautiful old building that was eerily quiet and clearly deserted. I went inside and could see stacks of chairs and piles of plates and boxes of glasses, but there was no wedding here. The taxi driver drove me to the hotel and left me there.

I asked in the hotel for directions to the wedding and they told me it was in the Wedding Venue and not in the hotel. I told them about where I’d been and the nice bar tender told me that I’d been in the right building but I’d gone in the staff entrance and the wedding was at the other side of the building. She said it was a bit of a walk and she’d give me a lift over. And so, after a day in which I’d been in two buses, a Tube, a train, a plane, a tram, a friend’s rental car and two taxis, I climbed on board my final mode of transport for the day, a golf buggy.

I’d never been on a golf buggy before. It’s fun, though I can’t say it’s a smooth ride. And then, about halfway between the hotel and the wedding venue, we got a flat tyre. I didn’t know golf buggies could get flat tyres. The bar tender drove on regardless, one of the bumpiest experiences of my life. I made it to the reception between the starter and the main course. It wasn’t a big enough wedding for me to sneak into, so I just bombasted it out and I think it was ok.
It was a lovely wedding, by the way.

Flying to Cork and Buying a Suit

Shortly before my dad passed away, I was flying home to Cork from Heathrow Airport.

I was just walking through the ticket turnstile at Heathrow Tube Station when I felt a tug at my suitcase and I lost my grip on it and it fell to the floor. The woman behind me had timed her maneouvre perfectly. In the time it took me to reach for my bag, I stood still, effectively keeping the ticket gate open. In that same moment, she and her two small children leapt over my suitcase and got into the airport without paying for their Tube journey.

I had to admire her. I can quite easily imagine me getting myself into a situation where I could afford to pay for a flight when booking it but by the time it came round to actually taking the flight, I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the Tube to get to the airport. And I certainly wouldn’t have the nimbleness and the sense of timing required to trip up someone else’s suitcase at exactly the right time to get through the barriers for free, let alone to be able to do that with two small children in tow.

Once on board the plane, I heard the most disturbing announcement I think I’ve ever heard a pilot make. He said, “Don’t worry if you hear different noises than usual on today’s flight. One of the engines isn’t working, so we have to re-charge it.” What? Every passenger on the plane looked around to see if we’d heard him right. It was too late for us to do anything. The doors were shut and the pilot was revving up. Luckily, we got to Cork safely, regardless of how many engines were working.

There was one day between my dad’s death and the funeral. I didn’t have a suit to wear.

But surely it would be fine. Cork is a relatively big place. I’d be able to find something.

Well, yes. Except that the day in question was also the day when Cork was being battered by Hurricane Ophelia, the wildest storm to hit Ireland in generations. I needed to get a suit, but the internet was full of videos of roofs flying off schools. Large parts of Cork were without electricity. In fact, when people were visiting us to pay respects that day, as my dad’s body was laid out in our sitting room, many people also brought their mobile phones and chargers and asked if they could plug them in, as our street was one of the few in Ballincollig with electricity.

My brother rang some of the “big men’s” clothes shops in Cork to see if any were open. Only one (of the three possibilities) answered. They said that they were open, but they didn’t sound fully awake when my brother spoke to them so we didn’t really believe.

We had to believe though. I couldn’t carry my dad’s coffin wearing jeans and a stripey t-shirt.

My sister is a brave driver and we sat behind the wheel of the car at a moment when the wind seemed to have calmed down a little. We’re only about a five-mile drive to the centre of Cork. We drove in via what is known as the Straight Road. Almost immediately, a car passed us and flashed its lights and we came to some tape, apparently sealing off the road. A massive tree had been felled in front of us. Luckily, the tape only stretched about three quarters of the way across the road and we were able to get round it.

What followed was a post-apocalyptic journey. There weren’t many cars on the road and no one was driving where they were supposed to be. All along the Straight Road, tall trees had been felled. Little mini tornados of twigs and leaves swirled around on the ground. Bruised and battered trees still stood but all looked like they were about to fall. We gave up on the road and we mounted the footpath and drove into town very slowly and very illegally. A tree did not fall on us and we came to no harm.

When we reached the city centre, everything was locked up and the city was mainly in darkness. Every shop we passed was closed. We pulled up outside the shop who had answered their phone that morning. We didn’t have much hope. And then, miraculously, the automatic door slid open in front of me, like the Red Sea before Moses. I would be able to get a funeral suit!

We drove home via the Model Farm Road, which is narrower and (obviously) twistier than the Straight Road, so it might be thought of as more dangerous, but I figured it would be more sheltered and that there were fewer tall trees along it, so it could be argued that it was more hurricane-friendly. And it was fine, until the very end, when a massive tree blocked our way. Luckily, this was after the turn off for the back road into Ballincollig, so we did eventually get home, with a suit and with an unscarred car in the middle of a hurricane.

The weather continued to be weird. The funeral was on a bright sunny day and by the time I was flying back to England, there was another storm blowing. Storm Brian was gusting across the runway of Cork Airport as we waited to take off. The pilot announced that we would wait until it died down a bit before taking off. Forty minutes later, still on the runway, the wind was still just as bad. The pilot decided to risk it and as we were taking off, I could feel the plane being lifted and pulled and pushed by the wind. I was convinced I was going to die. This isn’t how I wanted to die, I thought. I was reading one of Terry Pratchett’s lesser books. Couldn’t I die with Proust or Tolstoy in my hand? Or if I had to die with a Pratchett, couldn’t it at least be one of the better ones like Small Gods or Wyrd Sisters and not bloody Eric?

I didn’t die. It was fine.

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From the Couch to Sweden

I do love a project. And the wheels kind of came off everything in the last two months. Projects went unfulfilled. I stopped writing and I stopped posting ridiculous videos on YouTube and I stopped dieting. I’d been so proud of the four stone I’d lost. I don’t know how much I weigh now. But I know it’s more than it was. 

And I’ve got the perfect excuse, not that I want it. 

My body had got used to eating sane amounts of food and it reacted very badly to return of bingeing. It didn’t take long before I was up all night with indigestion, before going to the toilet became a bloody trial again, before the nosebleeds started again. I haven’t fully lost control, but for a few weeks things were beginning to look bleak. 

Thankfully, I am now London Connor. And London Connor is a better model than the previous version. So I’ll get back on track more easily than before. And I have an ANNOUNCEMENT. It’s been a while since I made an ANNOUNCEMENT. I’m sure you’ve missed them.

I have registered and paid for the Stockholm Marathon. 

It’s on Saturday, 2nd June 2018. 

Can I do it? Of course I can. Can I currently run for more than 30 seconds? Of course I can’t. 

I’m going back to Ireland for a week this week on what was meant to be a visit to see my dad. Once I get back to London, I’m starting. 

The novice marathon training programme I’m doing is 18 weeks long. So I have to be ready to start it on 29th January. What does being ready to start mean? It means I have to be able to run 3 miles comfortably.

Can I run 3 miles now? Of course not. But 3 miles is basically 5 km and I’ve done the Couch-2-5K before. 

I can do this. It’s seven years ago today that I made my last attempt at a marathon. This time will be different. 

Keep your fingers crossed for Connor! 

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