NSFW and TMI warnings. This is a post that you mightn’t want to read if you have to look me in the eyes very often.

I’ve already written about this man. He’d been texting me about meeting up. He wanted me to squash him and the idea of taking on a more dominant role in the bedroom seemed like a fun experiment to me. We’d been due to meet up one Sunday afternoon and he’d cancelled on me because he thought four hours wouldn’t be enough time because he wanted to meet in a pub first and get to know me a bit so we’d both be at ease.

In between the cancellation and the actually meet-up, he drove me half-mad with texts. He’d whatsapp every day, four or five times a day. And we’d have the same conversation every time. Every time, he’d describe what he wanted me to do to him, what I should wear and how he wanted to come. It was fine the first time, but after 20 of the same conversations, I was already pissed off with him. He’d panic if I didn’t answer. Pestering me with more and more texts until I would answer and promise to wear a tight t-shirt that my belly would hang out under.

So I got the Tube to finally meet him. I live in Zone 3 in South London. He lives in Zone 4 in North London. It’s a long journey. As instructed, I was wearing my smallest and tightest underpants, which dug into me horribly. I was also wearing a t-shirt that was too small for me. I had my jeans hiked up high, but his plan was for us to go to a pub together and let my belly hang out from under my t-shirt while we had a pint and got to know each other, so I could “tease him with my fat” until we went back to his for the squashing session.

All the way to the station, I kept thinking “what have I agreed to?” But London Connor is open to new experiences and this was certainly that.

I arrived at the station. I’d seen one photo of this man. He looked fine. A little older than me, slim with a squarish face. This photo wasn’t exactly a lie, but he didn’t look as good as that in reality. As he approached, he did the single unsexiest thing a man can do while walking up to you before a sexual encounter. He took out a tissue and blew his nose.

He looked like a dad. Not in a good way. Imagine one of your friends’ dads from when you were a teenager. Your most boring dad of a friend. That’s what he looked like. But blowing his nose. Sigh. I’d come all this way. I may as well sleep with him.

He’d picked a pub. We went in. It was a family pub and everyone was having Sunday lunch with their kids and their mothers-in-law. No. This was not somewhere where I could sit with my belly dangling out for him to admire. It was far too well lit for that. And also there was a general smell of chicken nuggets in the air. Was this the least sexy day of my life? Possibly.

He agreed that this pub wasn’t a good choice. I suggested we go straight back to his. The bit I didn’t say was “and get this over with”.

He led me out of the pub and up to a large, expensive, black car. Oh my god. I had to let him drive me to his house. So many alarm bells went off in my head. Seriously. What was I up to, sitting into a car with a strange man like this?

I got in. We had some idle chat as he drove. He told me he worked in “credit management”. Does that mean he’s a debt collector? Gross. Not only does he look like a dad, but he talks like one. He kind of mutters every word as if talking is for womenfolk and not for the likes of us.

I decided to tuck my jeans under my belly and let it hang out under my t-shirt while he drove. I didn’t wear this bloody tiny t-shirt for no reason. He was delighted. He complimented my belly. He swerved once or twice because he couldn’t keep his eyes on the road with my belly hanging out like that. I asked if he’d been squashed before. He’d had three other guys do it apparently. I asked if he had much other experience. He said he’d had a serious boyfriend for years but they broke up last year. The last boyfriend hadn’t been fat. I wanted to ask so many questions. Was he unhappy because his previous boyfriend couldn’t squash him and “tease him with his fat”? I didn’t ask any of them.

He pulled up at a nice-looking 1970s block of flats. I got out, and while he parked the car, I considered making a run for it, but decided that would be unkind.

We got up to his flat. He had me take my shoes off. The flat was very clean. Very, very clean. He’d clearly hoovered the cream-coloured carpets that morning. While it was sweet to think that he’d cleaned up for me, there was something very American Psycho about the apartment. All the furniture and fittings were modern and they were spotless. And the place had no personality. None. No pictures or posters or wall-hangings. No books, or DVDs, or magazines, or anything with any personality anywhere in the house. Terrifying. He gave me a glass of water in the kitchen and led me into the bedroom, another personality-free room. He walked over to the bed, folded the duvet in four and lifted up, saying, “Well we won’t be needing this” and put it to one side on the floor. I don’t know why, but this was by far the most terrifying thing so far.

We undressed. He undressed fully, folding his clothes carefully before putting them aside. I left on my tiny uncomfortable underpants, as he’d told me to. His eyes lit up and he invited me to sit on his chest.

Have you ever climbed on a skinny man’s chest and sat with legs astride his head? It’s not comfortable. We alternated positions. I kept sitting on his chest. Sometimes I was to lean back and tickle his balls. Other times I was to lean forward and pin his arms down over his head while my belly battered his face. He wanted my weight to make him struggle to breathe.

The position was so weird that I strained my left hip and could barely walk for the next two days. I guess this counts as my first sex injury. Yay?

When we took breaks to let him breathe, I could see the imprint of my uncomfortably tiny underpants on his chest. Within ten minutes of starting, he was telling me how great it was and asking if we could make this a regular thing. I smiled and said yes, worried about what would happen if I said no.

He also “worshipped my fat”, by grabbing my belly and squeezing it between his fingers. This wasn’t worship. This was pinching. I had a ring of bruises round my belly when I woke up the next morning. Sex is dangerous.

The only bit I enjoyed was “belly slapping”. While leaning over his face, I would lift my belly and let it slap his face. I didn’t derive any sexual pleasure from this, but it was kind of like finding a new toy. I didn’t know my belly could do that.

Eventually I got him to come, with his face between my thighs. He’d threatened to come a few times but I asked if it was ok if we left it at one orgasm. Thankfully it was. I got dressed and left.

Can you count it as sex if you didn’t kiss and you didn’t take off your underwear?

I got on the Tube, relief washing over me. Never again. Because I’m a nice person, I texted him to say “thanks” for hosting and didn’t dump him immediately. This was mistake.

The next day, I sent him what I hoped was a kind message, telling him thanks but it wasn’t my thing and I wouldn’t be visiting again.

He didn’t believe me.

He texted me every day for a week asking, “Didn’t you enjoy me worshipping your fat and making me cum?” He also told me we could do other things. He was up for “anything apart from anal”. He texted me so often that I had to firmly answer again that I just wasn’t interested.

He answered that I must have other reasons that I wasn’t telling him.

I ignored him again. What was I meant to do? Text him and say that I just didn’t find him attractive and the whole meet-up kind of squicked me out?

Eventually, after ten days, he stopped texting me.

The next man will be different. The next man will be better.

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Baby’s first harness

Not NSFW or anything, but maybe a bit TMI.

Connor’s journey of queer self-discovery continues.

I went shopping in Soho today. To a leather/fetish/sex shop. I wanted to buy a leather harness.


Well, for a number of reasons:

  1. As I mentioned above, London Connor is on a journey of queer self-discovery and a bit of bondage gear seems basically compulsory to achieve that.
  2. Men on the kind of sites and apps I frequent, seem to really like when men who look like me wear leather straps and chains and collars and the like.
  3. I like stripes. I know that in this context this sounds nuts, but I do. I love stripes. I find a man wearing a stripey t-shirt automatically sexier than a man in a not stripey t-shirt. I love striped clothes, striped carpets, striped tablecloths. I just like stripes. It’s one of the reasons I like braces and ties. They add stripes to the man. And a leather harness adds stripes to a man’s torso.
  4. London Connor is all about being brave and doing things I’ve never done before.

So here I was, standing outside the shop. It only took me about seven minutes to work up the courage to go in. I’d been in sex shops before, but only to buy jokey presents for other people, never to buy anything that would require me to try it on and to interact with a shop assistant. Oh Brave New Connor!

I walked in. There was a man chatting to the shop assistant. They were talking about their masturbation habits. Out loud. As if they were just exchanging gardening tips or something. There was also a young male/female couple in the shop, maybe 22 or 23, from Japan or Korea. I’m not sure they realised it was a shop mainly directed at the gay man.

I went to look at the rack of leather harnesses. I was completely bewildered by the choices available.

I walked up to the counter and interrupted the masturbation chat. Oh my god. The shop assistant had a t-shirt with a slogan about fisting. That’s right. Fisting. He was also wearing leather trousers. He spoke with a Northern Irish accent. I wonder if his mother knows where he works. Or if he wears his fisting t-shirt when he’s at home in Northern Ireland.

I told him I was interested in a harness but I couldn’t figure out the sizing.

“Let’s try a few on ye,” he said, leading me back to the rack of harnesses.

He told me about H-front harnesses and Y-front harnesses and X-front harnesses. He showed me where the various straps and buckles went. We brought two different types of harness to the changing room.

“You can try them on over your shirt or take your shirt off. And I can put them on you or you can put them on yourself.”

I took off my shirt and said, “It’s probably easier if you put them on me.” Because those are the kinds of choices I make now.

Well, if this isn’t a London Connor moment, then I don’t know what is. There I am, in a bondage-wear shop in Soho, topless, while a man from County Antrim wearing a shirt celebrating fisting, straps me into a variety of leather harnesses, being careful not to catch any of my hairs.

The harnesses didn’t all fit, but I didn’t expect them to. And the strap that’s meant to sit across the middle of your pecs is actually way above mine, because my moobs are fairly pendulous so my nipples are surprisingly low, but nonetheless, I love my new harness. It’s black leather with red edges and I look like the bomb in it. I’m sure I’ll post a photo to Instagram before too long.

Now I just need to find the right occasion to premiere it at.

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Back on the treadmill

Sounds the vuvuzelas, hang up the bunting, prepare the confetti. I’m running again.

I bet you’d been getting ready to pretend to forget that I’d registered for a marathon. Well, stop it. I’m still insane enough to think I’m going to do it.

This is different from the last time. I promise. This time I know what I’m getting myself into. And this time, I’m a different person.

Not only have I paid for my registration for the Stockholm marathon. Now I’ve only gone and bought plane tickets to Sweden and back too.

The last time I ran more than two days in one month was the summer I was in Trinity Hall just after My Boys had moved out in 2012.

And now, every time I run, I keep remembering 2012 me. Because it feels the same. And not just because my running playlist is still the same (Shackles by Mary Mary, My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson, Stomp by Steps, Love Story by Taylor Swift. All the classics.) It’s because I have the same feeling I had then. A feeling of grit and a feeling of optimism. Walking doesn’t do this to me. There’s a place in my psychology that the pain and sweat and effort of running get to that other forms of exercise don’t.

I find it horrendously difficult. I’m still working my way through the couch-to-5K, which is what I did in 2012. But I’m three stone heavier now than I was then. And the problems with morbidly obese people exercising are all in evidence. The friction burns and the blood-filled underpants. I’ve started fashioning what is essentially a sanitary pad out of toilet paper for myself before I walk or run anywhere in an attempt to make it doable. But I’m doing it. And it’s working.

Today, I found myself smiling for no reason while I was running. I think the running was the reason. Imagine. Exercise making me happy.

I haven’t started running outside yet. I’m not quite brave enough to be seen yet. The area of London where I live isn’t as leafy and posh as Dartry was in Dublin. My last experience of running through poorer housing estates was when I did the 8K and having kids come up to me and saying “Mister, you’re too fat to run.” I’m not ready for that. Yet.

And I like the gym. I can run on the treadmill and then relax in the steam room and sauna. Unfortunately, the gym doesn’t have a hot tub, or I’d literally never leave.

So Connor 2018 is going well. I’m running again. I’m meeting boys again. I’m making silly YouTube videos again.

I’ve only mentioned two new year’s resolutions in the blog: to be more sociable – which has mainly been a disaster so far (though I did get disgracefully drunk with work people on Tuesday night) and to be more of a 9-5 person at work (epic fail, still doing more like 10:30-8:30 a lot of days, but getting a little better every day.) Being me, I obviously have more resolutions. A lot. I’m starting to diet again on Saturday. If for no other reason than to make running easier. Wish me luck. And lots of other resolutions too.

One I haven’t mentioned: being more of a dandy. My mother gave me all my dad’s ties. And I’ve always wanted to be a braces guy, so every day of work so far this year, I’ve worn a shirt and tie and braces. So fetch.

But this post isn’t about braces. It’s about me. Running again. And feeling feelings. And having a ridiculous goal. And loving it.

I think, I think, I’m almost sure that I might be happy again you guys. Mwah!

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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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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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