Friday 4th September (part two – meeting night)

I went to the big meeting in the centre of town tonight. First time in about two months. I felt I had to go. Having shared all about my misery at work there earlier in the year, I was curious to see whether I could announce to the meeting that I’d quit my job and was about to live my dreams on a tour of Europe. Regulars to the meeting would surely be happy for me. When I’ve shared about the job in the past I’ve had supportive words from them, and when I’ve seen them later on they’ve asked me when I’m going to quit the job.

I got to the meeting and the usual thing happened. Didn’t talk to anyone, sat in the middle far away from everyone I might know, listened to the sharing, wanted to share back but couldn’t. God, it’s so irritating! As usual there were so many things I could have said, but the thing that happens is that when I’m about to open my mouth I don’t know what order I want to say it in, or what I should edit out, and I get confused and nervous and someone else manages to jump in in front of me.

I knew the person giving the chair last night. He’s one of AA’s famous old-timers, practically a living legend, a showman with a dark and funny back story that you’d pay to listen to if he was on stage. I’ve chatted to him in the past and he’s always been kind, but I couldn’t chat to him last night. When he looked at me and tried to wave I had to look away. He’s part of that group of people that I lost touch with and who I assumed didn’t want to speak to me any more. Even though he was making an effort last night to engage with me, I couldn’t change my prior assumptions. Had it been someone else giving the chair, someone I didn’t know, maybe I’d have been able to talk, but because it was him, I couldn’t risk engaging, just in case of rejection.

That’s the tragedy of this meeting for me. I know so many faces there, so many of them could have been life long friends, but every time I go I’m pushing them away. It doesn’t happen to me in any other situation. For God’s sake, I’ve managed to make dozens of friends in an office in Bulgaria! I can go there and start chatting to people the moment I walk in. In AA, it’s like being at school. I assume that no one wants to talk to me and no one goes out of their way to prove me wrong. I honestly don’t know why it’s become like that!

I can only hope it will be different at the new meetings I attend in Europe and in the northern city when I move there. It probably will be different. I’ll have made a clean break, I won’t know anyone there, won’t have awkward back stories with anyone to make me feel awkward. Once I’ve gone, won’t it be sad to know I couldn’t reconnect with this meeting one last time. I’ve only got a few more weeks – it would be nice to think that I can pull some miracle out of the bag in that time and say a proper goodbye to the meeting, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen now.

Friday 4th September (part one)

Boohoo, the holiday’s over. For the first time ever I’m not sad about coming home. I only have three and a half weeks left of work then my real odyssey will begin. At the beginning of this new chapter in my life, I’m aware that I’m about to discover my inner resources. I question whether I will keep hanging onto my anxiety, like an abusive lover, or whether I’ll be able to let go of it for good.

Last night over dinner I realised it was exactly a year ago that I discovered the news about the redundancies at work. We were in the same resort, enjoying a pizza in the town square, I was checking my phone and I got an urgent email from the boss telling me the news. A year later I’m finally on my way out of the company, knowing once and for all that I am doing the right thing in leaving. I’m not particularly worried about unemployment at the moment. I know I’ll have to find a new job next year. Unlike seven years ago, when I was last unemployed, this time I’m not scared of that search. I’ve worked hard for six solid years and progressed in an organisation that’s tough to progress in. I’ll be fine.

I think I’ve decided what to do in November after Venice. When we passed through Paris on the train this morning it looked beautiful in early morning sunlight; I remembered how much I love it there, and I want to spend more time there. I’m going to look for a flat to stay in for a month, until my birthday in December when we’re going to Amsterdam for the weekend. After Amsterdam I’ll return home to see out Christmas and New Year; then I’ll go up north.

It’s taken ages to make this decision about what to do with my career break. After years of thinking I’d move to France permanently, it’s maybe a little sad that I won’t be. What of my French dream? Will I continue to learn French until I become fluent? I think so. It’s been tough just getting to this level of fluency. They have French courses up north. I’ll start one up there next year and see where it goes. I can always live in France in the future. I have the rest of my life.

I finish work at the end of the month. Not long to go now! After that I’ll have two weeks before I go to Portugal. I’ll be at home at a loose end; it will undoubtedly be like 2007 again, when I had no plans and no job to get me up in the mornings. Just what I want! I can see myself using the time to re-engage with AA in London, because what else can an alcoholic do? As much as I’ve allowed myself to drift from AA again recently, I haven’t really given up on it, like I did a couple of years ago. It’s always there, in the back of my mind, and I know once I’m out of this job I’ll be able to give it all my energy again.

The journey I’m about to go on doesn’t feel real, because it hasn’t really started yet. For some reason mum has ordered a chest of drawers for my room, even though I already have one. She likes spending money on me, that much is clear. Often she’ll get me things I don’t need, like clothes and bed sheets and plastic boxes to put things in. It’s really touching, but the fact is I won’t be here to use these things. After December, hopefully I’ll be gone for good. I’ve told her of my plans to move next year; I thought it was strange how easily she accepted them. Now I think she hasn’t really accepted them at all. It’s not real to her yet either.

Wednesday 2nd September

After a quick stop at home last Wednesday, I was back on the train on Thursday with P travelling to Avignon, France. We’d be spending the night there before catching another onward train to Barcelona on Friday. I’d wanted to take a train all the way to Barcelona for years. The idea seemed so romantic. The stop in Avignon was a good idea: it’s a lovely town. The weather that day was gorgeous, and we got to enjoy the famous medieval stone bridge in the afternoon with the beautiful blue backdrop of the Rhone river. That evening, after a delicious pizza in the town square we followed Tripadvisor’s recommendation by going to see the light show in the old Pope’s Palace.

In the Middle Ages Avignon was home to a succession of popes, when the centre of Christianity was not in Rome. Much of the stone centre of Avignon is as it was in those days, and the imposing Pope’s Palace is the grand, rather breathtaking centrepiece that people come to Avignon for. Every night the interior walls are lit up with images and cartoons that tell the story of its history. I’d expected to be impressed, but I was blown away. The walls literally changed in front of your eyes; faces, backdrops, windows doors and words moved around and linked up with each other, bringing vividly to life the history of the palace and the surrounding town. All the narration was in French, so I only understood about half of it while Phil understood none. But we were extremely happy that we’d gone, nonetheless. It was a magical experience.

The train for Barcelona would be leaving early the next morning, which was a bit of a worry, given that the mainline station is a ten minute journey by car outside of Avignon’s old walls. But we made it in plenty of time, thanks to our usual forward planning. P had got a deal on first class tickets, so we journeyed to Barcelona in some style. When we arrived there in the afternoon, P was excited and acting like a big kid. I had been excited too until he started doing this. He kept asking “aren’t you excited to be here?” which just annoyed me no end. I began to worry about the next eight days that I was going to have to share a room with him. Then I realised I was listening to the disease talk; I resolved there and then to carry on with my nightly meditations. I’d lock myself and do it in the bathroom if I had to. I needed to keep sane on this holiday.

The first couple of days in Spain were great. We did our best to explore parts of Barcelona we hadn’t seen before, including the stunning Montjuic Park, which came as a real surprise. I found myself falling in love with Barcelona all over again, and I thought about how nice it would be to retire there.

With P you can’t go to a European city and not spend every night in its gay scene, it’s just not allowed. Saturday we started off in one of our old favourites – a classy cocktail bar in the middle of Barcelona’s unofficial gay area that caters to, shall we say, a more mature clientele. I like it because they play good music (showtunes, 70’s disco, modern electronica, nothing that could be considered as hard house or crap 21st century pop that seems to fill every other gay bar in the world); there’s no attitude in the crowd or in the staff; they have comfortable sofas; it’s always a friendly atmosphere. I never go there expecting to pull – I’ve never pulled in Barcelona, come to think if it – and so usually I don’t mind when I leave without pulling, because it’s not something I want to spoil the experience with any more. On Saturday as soon as we arrived there was a handsome bearded guy in shorts at the bar, staring at me. I wanted to ignore him and forget that he was there – it’s always less threatening that way – but for some reason I couldn’t.

He kept staring, even after we’d moved away from the bar and found a sofa on the other side. I could see him leaning over the bar to get a good look at me; at one point he even walked around the bar, eyes fixed on me as he came quickly towards me, then, just when I thought he was going to stop and say something, he carried on with his circuit until he was back on the other side with his friend.

I must have looked really embarrassed and uncomfortable – one side of me was. On that side I was vulnerable and under threat, expected to reciprocate the attention and become this sexual being that I’ve never liked being. On the other side I really, really wished he’d have stopped to talk to me. I could barely listen to what P was saying; all the while he was still talking to me, oblivious to what was going on.

Much later on, after much mental agony, my heart fluttered when the guy and his friend returned to our side of the bar, picking a free spot on the sofa right next to ours. There he was, within reaching distance, clearly interested in interacting with me – and I couldn’t even turn to look at him. I’ve never wanted to turn and say something to someone so much before in my life. He stayed there for ten minutes, then he got up and left. And that was the last I saw of him. In the space of a few seconds my heart was broken by a stranger whose name I’ll never know.

How can my heart be broken by someone whose face I didn’t even see properly? Whose name I don’t know? It’s not enough to say that I felt extremely attracted to him, nor is it enough to say I’m just this needy person who gets hurt easily. There’s much more to this, going back years. It’s the same experience as every other heartache I’ve been through. It comes from the same place. I’d love to think I can avoid it happening again by swearing off men and cruising forever, but if it can just take the smallest thing to crack it open, I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid it forever.

I told P about it the next day and he was his usual bright optimistic self. There are plenty more fish in the sea! Cheer up, it might never happen! It’s his loss, not yours! Yep, all the clichés came out because P didn’t know what else to say, how else to be. He is just someone who always has to look on the bright side, it’s not really his fault. Having someone like that around in London is great, when you can leave them again and be alone after a few hours. When you’re stuck with them for a week in Spain, it’s another matter.

The paradox with P is that he can look on the bright side when it comes to the big important stuff, such as love, work, sex, money, but he can’t when it comes to small, rather unimportant things. I’m talking air conditioning in restaurants, overcooked eggs, people pushing into queues, expensive metro tickets. When anything gets in the way of him having a convenient day he will always do the exact same thing: tut, sigh, moan for a bit, then not talk about it again. Every single time it’s that same tut and sigh. I can predict when I’ll hear it: they come like clockwork many times a day.

I meanwhile can get through life’s daily inconveniences without tutting and sighing, most of the time. Something like a person seeming to push in front of a queue barely bothers me nowadays. P doesn’t get it, he can’t see why complaining about things that will just happen anyway, because they’re part of life, makes life harder. Having to listen to him complain when someone stands near him smoking, when someone is walking slowly up an escalator in front of him, etc. gets really draining after a while.

Especially when, five minutes later, he’ll remind me of why I shouldn’t get upset about my dead sex life because it’s bound to perk up soon, I’m still young after all! When I try and explain some of the realities of the situation, such as the fact that I don’t go out and I don’t drink and it’s nearly impossible to meet other gay men in our city when you don’t do those two things, it just passes by him, like he hasn’t heard. It’s as if he’s deaf to anything that goes against his own opinion.

*****

We’re staying near the beach, in a hotel surrounded by single gay men, with a pool that is occupied morning to night with our kind, all looking for a bit of fun and relaxation. It’s the first time we’ve stayed here. At first I was bit weary of it – normally we’ve always stayed in a cheap traveller’s hostel type place down the road – we’ve stayed there so many times it’s become almost a tradition, and I instantly missed it when we got here. This place is, whilst still not exactly luxurious, erring much more towards posh. It is in fact much more of a resort hotel, with its pool and its large canteen like breakfast room where all the gays gather for gossip in the mornings.

After a couple of days I’m starting to warm to it, thankfully. Having never really done a resort hotel before, by which I mean the type of hotel you could just stay in all day because it has all the amenities you need, it’s an interesting experience.

Most evenings I’ve been up late booking hotels and apartments for my European odyssey online. Most of it’s booked now. The itinerary is already impressive. On the 13th October I’ll be travelling to Lisbon for a few days, then Porto, then onto Madrid, Seville, Valencia, and then across the Mediterranean to Rome and Venice. There I will end up on the 4th November; I haven’t decided yet what to do next. At the moment I’m thinking about getting a train to Nice and spending the rest of November there; but part of me is now thinking of skipping France altogether and spending the time up North here, looking for work. It’s already mostly decided that I’ll be moving to the northern city in the new year, so I’m becoming attracted to the idea of starting the search for work there early.

What’s true is that I’m not in any rush to decide. I’m on holiday at the moment, there’s no urgency. I can think about it properly when I get home. The bits of the trip I’ve booked so far make me feel very excited, as well as nervous. I’ve never done so much travelling in one trip before. I’ll be on my own through all of it, which is the scary part. I already know I’m going to have to use AA meetings out there to get me through it. I just hope they’re friendly. I won’t see anyone I know for at least three weeks. I question whether I’m really ready for this. Now that I’ve booked most of it I guess I’ll have to be ready. Life sure is about to get very interesting. It’s what I’ve wanted for years – I can’t chicken out of this now.

P and I walked a few miles down the coast to the secluded gay nudist beach that we discovered last year. This was the part of the trip I’d been looking forward to the most. The walk is breathtaking in parts, as it takes you over mountains and beside railway lines, through forests and rocky shorelines. When we got to the beach I had no intention of stripping off to get in the sea, even though I was sweating madly. It’s been a year since I last did skinny dipping – my confidence levels in my body have taken a drop in that time. Meanwhile P couldn’t wait to take everything off and run into the warm Mediterranean sea.

I got us some sun loungers and settled in with some classic pop music, as I watched P wade further and further into the turquoise water. After ten minutes I was shocked to see him score; a cute looking beary type walked straight up to him and started talking to him. Within minutes they were embracing in the middle of the sea. I almost couldn’t believe it; but then I could, because he’s done it before. P says he’s an introvert like me but he always manages to find people when it’s the right moment. If I’d gone into the sea, I knew I wouldn’t have met someone just like that. Guys never just come up to me on beaches or in bars! I’m not depressed about it or anything, at least not any more, it’s just a bit perplexing when P’s ability to attract men is so on display.

I’m sure his positive attitude towards sex and dating is a key factor here. I’d love to have the same positive attitude, tell myself I have a great body and that guys will love me no matter what, but I just can’t and there’s no point in trying. I have to try not to get irritated by P when he comes out of the sea after half an hour telling me all about what just happened.

Wednesday 26th August

Dear readers,

sorry for the long silence. I’ve been away on holiday, but now I’ve returned. Here are the entries for the last couple of weeks.

This week I’m becoming quite the jet setter. I’ve been getting trains here, there and everywhere. Early on Saturday I made my way to the station, to catch my train to Lyon in France. This would be the beginning of my big summer holiday. I was in Lyon for three days, excited to be there after months of planning. I found the city interesting, but I think I must have hyped it up in my head too much beforehand as it was ultimately a little disappointing. There are many nice parts to it, but nothing about it really grabbed me, like Nice or Paris. The whole weekend wasn’t helped by inclement weather. It showered all day on Sunday and Monday. Looking out of the hotel window in the mornings, I found it hard to muster much will to go out. I knew I was there to explore and that I ought to fight the urge to stay in bed – an unhelpful urge that wants to cripple me in general – an internal conflict between the knowledge and the desire led to anxiety that I shouldn’t be experiencing on holiday.

I’m glad I’ve been to Lyon, but I’m glad I’m back now. Now that I’ve seen it and found it a bit “meh”, I’m inclined to change my plans for later in the year. I was intending to spend three months learning in French in Lyon, after a friend told me it was a fun, reasonably priced city to live in. Since I’ve only spent three days there, it’s possible I missed something wonderful about it and I’d be missing out on a great experience by not living there – but I no longer want to live there. I don’t know if I want to live that long in France any more. It occurred to me today I could travel all over Europe, and spend the same amount of money. I could see the places I’ve always wanted to see – Portugal, Italy, Switzerland. A European grand tour would fall well within budget. I’ve looked up prices of flights and hotels in various cities – I could really do it.

The immediate thought of spending the money leads to an odd guilty sensation, like I should be saving it and avoiding something so frivolous as a long holiday. I’d gotten used to the idea I’d just be learning French in France for three months – doing something “constructive” with my career break – and so had P, who definitely won’t approve of me changing plans so drastically.

I’m trying to remind myself that I can and should do what the hell I want with the money. I shouldn’t stick to a plan just because someone else approves of it.

*****

I’ve officially moved out of where I was and am living at home with mum again. This is officially to save on rent as I’m going to need to keep as much of the next two pay cheques as I can. Unofficially it’s an escape from the flat that I was in for two years. Boy am I glad to be out of there! I wasn’t getting on with the landlord at all in the end. We bumped into him on our way out that final evening, and though the exchange was very civil, I knew I would never see or speak to him again, and I’m glad.

Wednesday 19th August

Over the weekend I arranged a little dinner with M and P to celebrate quitting my job. It felt like my birthday had come early and so I celebrated like it was my birthday. We tried a brand new NY style pizza place in town, which was enjoyable. I had a lovely time with good friends.

Work’s annoying this week. S asked me not to tell anyone I’m leaving until I get back from holiday in two weeks. That will leave them just three weeks to get used to the idea. I feel like I’m being forced to keep secrets again – after a year of having to keep my wishes secret – it’s infuriating. Although I know it’s definitely happening and nothing can keep me there after the end of September, it’s like it’s not really confirmed until the boss has given me permission to tell my colleagues. We haven’t even spoken about it once last week. I don’t know what kind of handover she wants me to have with the team, or how she wants to tell them, or when she will tell them.

It’s so silly, I shouldn’t be worrying about it, but I can hardly help it because I just wanted to get this out in the open when the company sold – and I still have to keep quiet.

It’s going to be busy few weeks in the lead up to me going. There is so much to do, it’s unbelievable. I’m involved in my first real project of the year, ironically. With so much planning, so many articles to write, I should be spending every minute of my time at work focused on the task at hand, but the more I have to do it seems the less I’m able to concentrate. It’s not good. I must be spending at least a third of my time looking at stuff on facebook, Buzzfeed, Huff Post. This project was supposed to be exciting – it is exciting – but it’s not holding my interest very much at the moment. I just want it to be over. I wanted my last few weeks of work to be stress free. How ironic that after a year of not having anything to do, I finally have everything to do in the last few weeks.

I woke up anxious about it this morning and it put me in a bad mood. I found the mood hard to shake all day, though I’m more aware than ever of how these moods work and how I can observe them objectively. I know I’ll feel normal again tomorrow – it’s always the same pattern:

  • start day in bad mood
  • refuse to talk to anyone for a few hours
  • put headphones in
  • wait for mood to pass
  • feel embarrassed about being anti-social
  • worry about people being pissed off
  • sink back into bad mood
  • repeat cycle until end of day
  • wake up next day feeling normal again like nothing happened

I’m so used to these kinds of days now, I can predict every thought and feeling that will arise. I wouldn’t say now that I have this mindful perception of it that I expect it to get gradually better because it probably won’t. I will always have these days, but I do hope that my meditation is helping and that they are getting a little less frequent.

I’m bored at work when I’m not busy and I’m bored when I am busy. I want to leave so badly – even though the light’s at the end of the tunnel now it still seems unreasonably far off. The positive thing is that I know I have 100% made the right decision. I am so ready to go. I’ve got to live my life without this job hanging round my neck.

Wednesday 12th August

I quit my job today! I’m so happy! The bonus arrived unexpectedly in my bank account at 10pm last night, two hours earlier than it should have. The moment it arrived, I was free. My life has literally changed today. At 8am today I went into work prepared to quit. I had drafted a resignation letter last night and e-mailed it to myself; when I got into the office I printed it and asked my boss for a catch up a few minutes later. We went into a room, and I launched straight into the announcement I had been dying to make for months. To her credit, my boss took it really well. I’d been expecting her to be annoyed, or to say that I couldn’t leave yet because I had some obligations still to be met. The only obligation I have is to work thirty days notice; I’ve voluntarily extended that to the end of September because I want to finish the projects I recently started.

I’ll walk out of this job with my head held high. I just can’t believe it’s finally over! As soon as I’d spoken to my boss this morning, a weight was literally lifted from my shoulders. No more lying; no more pretending to want to be there.

My plans for the next six months are pretty much crystallized, but I can’t decide on Australia. I’d really like to go – but it costs such a lot of money. I have the money now, but do I want to spend that much of the bonus straight away?

I came close to booking the holiday this afternoon; I would have gone on the 5th October for two weeks. I stopped myself because the need to spend a few months in France has been much stronger for much longer, and I’ll want as much spending money out there as I can get. I think I’ve decided that I will go to France for three months, assess my financial situation in the new year and then decide. That feels like the most sensible thing to do. I strongly feel like I need to be responsible with this money. I’ve got it for a reason – my higher power’s given me this gift – I’m perfectly capable of being wise with it, so I plan to be.

Oh god, I’m actually going to get to live my dream! I’m not worried that by next year I’ll have spent most of the money and I’ll have to come back here and get another job. I know that the money will have been spent properly, and I know I won’t just be coming back to the same old drudgery. I’ll get to choose my new job, as well as the place where I live permanently. I will be in complete control of my destiny.

I’m free today, and the feeling I’m starting to get is that I am back in 2007, when I last freed myself from something that was restricting my choices in life (alcohol). Those were the best years of my life so far, and I sense more best years coming on. For a long time I’ve felt that I fell out with AA due to my job. When I got this job it quickly started eating into my time and so much of my energy in the past six years has been taken up with it. It’s opened up a new world to me and in my core, I couldn’t be part of that world and stay fully in AA at the same time. Subconsciously I think that I had to choose. I chose work, and I grew to hate it as a result.

Now I don’t have to choose any more. From the 1st October I’ll be free to go to as many meetings as I like again. While I’ve been so consumed with the job this year I have really struggled to dedicate any energy to AA, and it’s shown. For the past few weeks I’ve not consciously avoided AA, but I haven’t been going because I think deep down I knew I couldn’t do it properly again until the job was behind me. Well, as much as I’ve loathed AA at times in recent years there is still miraculously a part of me that wants to be in it. I look forward to returning to the fold soon; I look forward to exploring meetings in France!

Sunday 9th August

It’s been a nice weekend. I’ve spent most of it dreaming. On Friday management reassured us that we will have the money in our bank accounts by next week, so the edge has been taken off my panicked state and I’ve been able to indulge in fantastic plans for a big trip somewhere. At first I wasn’t planning on any big holiday, I just wanted to get straight to France to learn French and find another job. Yesterday I realised that I could afford the time I want in France AND have an adventure somewhere else. Negative doubts about the huge cost and the irresponsibility of it all soon faded as I started to ask myself: where have I always wanted to go?

Soon it was clear to me that I really can go wherever I want now. I don’t have to be tied to Western Europe. I may not have enough to stop off at all the world’s major cities, but I can choose any continent, and visit some of that continent’s big cities for a couple of weeks. After thinking seriously about Hong Kong and Bangkok, I moved onto Sydney and Melbourne, because I have always wanted to go there, more than any other place. I’ve spent most of the afternoon looking up prices for flights and hotels, and while expensive, it will fall into budget, if I’m relatively sensible. I should be left with enough to still go to France and survive until I can get a job next year.

Thoughts have also started to settle on what’s going to happen next year. Now that they’ve started I can hardly stop them. The question of whether I want to remain in France, or come back here, or move somewhere else in the country, has become salient.

I could possibly get somewhere really nice were I to stay in France, but the idea of living there permanently isn’t so desperately urgent any more, if I consider the northern part of this country. France would be a dream, but it would be very hard to get a permanent job there; whereas in the north here, I have as much chance of getting work as I do down south. Which is to say that I have a really good chance, because of my experience here. I can actually see it working out. Years ago I was considering the same move, before I got my current job. It would be a big move, and I’d be leaving behind family and friends – but right now it doesn’t seem like too much of a problem.

I didn’t want to tell P about it yesterday when I met him at the gym, because he was a in a bad mood over something and I knew he’d react negatively. He’d come up with all sorts of reasons why it wouldn’t work out, why I’d be mad to leave the capital behind for such a provincial backwater. I really wanted to tell him that I am planning to get a mortgage next year, though, because we had semi made plans to move in together and for me to become his lodger next year, when I wasn’t thinking so much about mortgages. When it looked like his mood was improving after the gym, I told him that I possibly don’t want to become his lodger any more, and he took it well enough; financially, me getting a mortgage as soon as possible is the wisest thing to do, and P always agrees with what makes financial sense.

When he asked me where I was thinking of buying, I wondered if I should tell the truth or just lie. Not being a very good liar, I just came out with it and told him where I’d been looking.

“What?!” he cried, as if I’d said I was considering moving to the slums of Calcutta. He immediately fired off a list of vague reasons why that city isn’t a good place to live, including the fact it doesn’t have as much culture as here. Seriously, that’s what he said. It doesn’t have enough culture. He seemed quite upset, and I could tell that he wasn’t saying the real reason why I should stay down here. He needs me to stay here because I’m his best friend, one of his only good friends left here. All his other friends have either left his life or moved to other parts of the country in recent years. He pretty much relies on me for his social life at weekends now. And I’m not judging that at all – I rely on him for all my social needs these days. But the difference between us seems to be that I can take it or leave it.

We’d arranged dinner and a show later in the evening. I’d been looking forward to the evening, but now I wasn’t so much. P wasn’t really talking any more and I couldn’t help feeling as if I’d let him down in some way. Over dinner, I noticed he was playing with his phone a lot; when I looked over his shoulder I was surprised to see it wasn’t Grindr keeping him occupied as usual but an estate agents app. He was looking for properties in my price range in the capital!

I got a succession of e-mails from him later in the evening with links to “nice” flats that he’d found for me in the suburbs. So he had already forgotten that I told him I don’t see myself living the rest of my life in a small studio flat on the outskirts, commuting for ninety minutes or more to work every morning. It’s very easy for P to see the bright side of that kind of lifestyle, given that he doesn’t have to live it. He’s nicely set up in the centre of town these days. If I’m really to stay here I’m going to have to cling on to the outer edges, spending beyond my means for the rest of my life just so I can see him at weekends.

I tried to tell him last night that I don’t want that, but he wasn’t listening. When I laughed at his ludicrous suggestion that the other city doesn’t have much culture he kind of just stared off into space, like my words were going in one ear and out the other.

I’ll miss P, I really will. He’s been my closest friend for ten years, and I don’t know what I would have done without him at times. If I move up north I really hope he’ll come and stay sometimes, and I hope we’ll still go to Spain for holidays together every year. The truth is, I need another best friend. Not to replace P – I just need someone else in my life as well as him. For all his loyalty as a friend there are an increasing number of things I don’t like about him, and I need a second best friend to balance those things out. Hell, if I’m going to go for a second best friend I might as well go for a group of them. That would change things up, give me some variety.

All of these things I’m planning to do are things I sincerely want to do with the one life I’ve got, they are not just whims. P seems to think they are. At every suggestion I’ve made he has come up with reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea. When I said I wanted to leave my job without getting another one straight away his reaction was “What?!” When I said I wanted to spend a few months in France without working he responded with “What?!” If I tell him I’m considering a trip to Australia on top of the sojourn in France, I’m sure it will be the same reaction. So I’ll probably just tell him after I’ve booked it. At least then there’ll be no chance of him talking me out of it.