Yearly Archives: 2019

I suspect they offer generous staff discounts.

Her face is completely unlined; almost wax like. And I am morbidly fascinated by her over-inflated lips.

I think she is trying to smile at me but it’s difficult to tell. “I can see why you would want your nose fixed. It’s not very straight is it? Have you broken it? You should also consider upper eyelid surgery; it would make you look less tired”.

Admittedly my eyelids have always been a little heavy but I’ve never really had a problem with that. She hands me a mirror then pulls my eyelids up to demonstrate how much more ‘awake’ I would look. And I find myself murmuring in agreement.

Then she says “Can I see your breasts? You could probably benefit from an up-lift too”. I fold my arms protectively across my chest and tell her that I quite like my breasts thank you very much.

She goes on to suggest liposuction on my bottom “to trim it down a little”. This really is too much. “I’m Mediterranean. I’m supposed to have a decent sized arse. Are you deliberately trying to piss me off?”

Apparently she is merely encouraging me to take advantage of this month’s special offer; three surgical procedures for the price of two. Now I understand. She’s a salesperson in a nurse’s uniform.

“Hmmm, three for two offers are hard to refuse”. Her face twitches slightly, she is trying to smile at me again>i> “Excellent. I’ll get the paperwork”.

I tell her I hadn’t finished “It’s hard to refuse the offer in a supermarket but much easier when it comes to putting my life at risk with unnecessary surgery”.

Another slight twitch, I think it’s a frown this time “I really am only interested in the rhinoplasty. When can I speak to the surgeon?”

She hands me a booking form and pen. “Just as soon as we have you booked in – when is good for you? We require a fifty percent deposit”.

I thank her for her time as I’m walking out. She follows me all the way to the door, trying to persuade me to sign the booking form.

I ask her how many people she has pressured into signing up for potentially life threatening surgery that they don’t actually need. It’s appalling how she plays on your insecurities.

Fortunately for me my intelligence outweighs my insecurity. I make a mental note to report the clinic to the GMC.

Then I walk further down Harley Street to see a surgeon recommended by a friend. His client base is all through word of mouth (not advertisements on the underground). And my consultation is with the actual surgeon.

I explain that I would like a nose job to straighten my nose and make it less prominent. He studies my face for a moment. “Your nose fits your face perfectly. I wouldn’t recommend rhinoplasty unless you absolutely needed it. It’s the most complicated facial surgery and the risk factors are high”.

I ask him about my upper eyelids. He smiles kindly at me “I wouldn’t touch them for at least another ten to fifteen years”. I want to know if there is anything else I can have done now to make me look pretty.

He shakes his head, “You are a very attractive woman and you have fantastic bone structure, just think yourself lucky”.

I remember that he also works for the NHS carrying out reconstructive surgery. And I leave the clinic feeling incredibly silly.

What on earth has happened to me? Since when did I decide it was worth risking my life and leaving Mia motherless for the sake of vanity?

I decide to scrap Plan A; I am most definitely not going to undergo any invasive surgical procedures.

But there is absolutely no harm in trying non-invasive natural alternatives that carry no risk at all right? And apparently Dracula Therapy is the hottest thing in anti-aging right now. It’s also my Plan B.

I have already done all the research but I listen patiently as the doctor explains the procedure.

He will draw blood then separate it into the red blood cells, the clear serum and the platelets. Then, after amino acids and vitamins are added, the enriched serum is injected back into my face. And my skin will look younger naturally.

I’m relieved when he produces a needle and draws four vials of blood from my arm; my keen sense of drama meant that I was half expecting him to sink his teeth into my neck.

I watch him preparing the serum and I start to feel like I’m in Frankenstein’s laboratory. I hum to try and drown out the two voices arguing in my head “How the hell do you know what he’s going to inject into your face? You could end up looking like Frankenstein’s monster. Don’t do it”.

“No. Do it. It’s only your own blood with lots of vitamins added to it. You’ll look all fresh and lovely”.

They are still arguing when he starts injecting my face from hair line to jaw line. My pain threshold is very low. And it really fucking hurts. I wince. “Stay still please”.

I want to get up and walk out but then one side of my face will look younger than the other. I curse myself for being such a shallow idiot.

Then I clench my fists and try to go to my happy place until it’s over.

It will take at least three weeks for me to see any effects. In the meantime my face looks like a pink pin cushion (without the pins obviously).

He advises me to have a top up in six months. I don’t think so.

At least my next appointment is going to be completely pain-free. A good haircut is supposed to take years off a person. And I have managed to book myself in with one of the best hairdressers in London.

I thought my face had calmed down a little but he asks me if I’ve just come out of the gym “You look a little flushed”. I nod then move on swiftly “What would you recommend? I don’t want to look mutton”.

We decide on a sleek graduated bob.

Then he suggests that I go for a deep conditioning treatment “I use an organic product with a lot of protein which is what hair is made of and lacks when it’s dry”.

I like the sound of that. He massages the treatment into my hair. I comment on the lovely smell “What’s in it exactly?”

It’s a mix of a protein rich plant called katera. And bull semen.

Bull semen? My hair is smothered in bull semen? And he couldn’t have told me that before? How do they get it? Do they make the bull wear a condom while it has sex or is someone masturbating it?

I try not to retch. I would insist on having it washed out immediately but this stuff doesn’t come cheap so I have to tough it out.

This means spending the next forty-five minutes sitting under a steamer so that the “treatment penetrates” my hair.

His unfortunate choice of words involuntarily set off a series of very disturbing images in my bull semen covered head.

Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

It’s difficult holding this position. My legs are starting to ache. And my bottom is feeling cold.

The supermarket toilet is not the ideal place to do this. But I couldn't bear to wait any longer.

I’ve been hovering over the toilet seat holding the stick in what I hope is the right place for some time now (I find it hard to pee on demand).

Then I’m finally about to go when someone starts banging on the door “This is security. You’re in a disabled toilet.”

Damn. I’ve started now so I have to finish. I shout back in Turkish “Anlamiyorum sizi (I don’t understand you)”

There is a brief pause before another (older) voice pipes up. “Typical. She’s a foreigner. I expect she parks in disabled spaces too”.

He asks her if she’s sure that I’m not disabled. “Of course I am. I told you, I saw her walking in there bold as brass”.

I try to ignore them and focus on trying to pee on the stick. But they keep banging on the door “You shouldn’t be in there”.

I’m not quite sure what they expect me to do. I can hardly walk out mid-pee. And I have to wait for the result.

So I buy myself some time by having a rant at them “Nasil insansiniz yahu? Bakiniz beni rahat iseyim (what kind of people are you? Let me pee in peace)”.

Then I throw in a few “Allah Allah’s” for good measure.

There is silence from the other side of the door. Turkish is not a language that is easily identifiable so it throws people.

And the reference to Allah always works because people are either worried about appearing to be racist or fear that you may have terrorist links.

My heart is thumping as I watch the stick intently. A single pink line appears. I quickly double check the leaflet. Yes! It’s negative.

I step outside to find an elderly lady waiting to (rightly) chastise me. She points at the disabled sign on the door and speaks very slowly and loudly “This means it is for people in a wheelchair or for people with missing limbs”. I try not to laugh as she hops around on one leg to illustrate.

Then I practically skip all the way home. It’s lucky I’m in a good mood because my mother has been ‘taking care’ of me while I’ve been out.

And so far this has consisted of shrinking my favourite cashmere sweater, ironing sharp creases down my linen trousers and throwing away my distressed Seven jeans.

We sit down to eat. My father puts salt on his food before tasting it. Then he asks my mother for a lemon. She gets up, takes a lemon from the fridge, cuts it in half and hands it to him.

Then he asks for a napkin. And she gets up again. This happens several more times. “Dad, can you not just get things for yourself? She’s up and down like a yoyo. Her food’s going cold”.

She has always done everything for my father, right down to peeling his fruit. I’ll have to do something about that while I’m here.

I’m sure my mother is more than capable of rebelling (with a little encouragement).

He fixes me with a stare then continues eating his food. She has a little smile playing on her lips.

We finish our meals in silence. Then I tell them I’m going out this evening. And that I won’t be back until tomorrow. They exchange disapproving glances but say nothing.

I arrive at the bar early and watch Jake as he walks in. I can see girls nudging their friends and nodding towards him. He appears to be totally oblivious to the attention he attracts.

This happens everywhere we go. And it was something I found mildly amusing when I considered him a brief fling.

But now that I have fallen in love with him, it’s not in the least bit funny.

He gives me a long lingering kiss then tells me that he has a surprise for me. Oh dear. I am a control freak therefore I absolutely detest surprises.

I am appalled when he leads me into a karaoke venue. He has booked us a booth for an hour. I am struggling to understand why he thought this would be a good idea.

Then I remember him singing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack in the car and trying to get me to join in. I had point blank refused “I don’t do anything that I know I’m not good at”.

But I did reluctantly admit to singing ‘No Woman No Cry” with a reggae band in Jamaica (having consumed copious amounts of rum). I enjoyed it so much that I refused to leave the stage.

They kindly allowed me to ruin a few more songs before I was carried off by their guitarist and deposited backstage.

There is audio evidence of that night. And I am definitely tone deaf. Jake assures me that the booths are sound proofed. But I am still a little embarrassed.

Then he says “You know if you just let yourself go a little this could be fun”. I hate being told to ‘let myself go’. Go where for fuck’s sake?

But I don’t want to seem ungracious so I reluctantly agree to give it a go. I cringe at my awful voice at first, only singing the odd line here and there.

But gradually I start to sing more and more until I can no longer hear how awful I sound. Then I fulfill a secret lifetime’s ambition by making him Danny to my Sandy and performing “You’re The One That I Want”.

This feels so liberating. My voice is hoarse by the time our hour is up. I thank Jake. Perhaps he knows me better than I think.

Then we do something I have managed to avoid thus far; we go back to his house. He has two tenants who pay his mortgage while he studies for his Masters degree.

I haven’t been out with someone in a house-share since my student days. I just hope his bed doesn’t creak.

The house is empty but I’m still a little uncomfortable. Jake puts me at ease very quickly. And I discover that he is a fantastic cook.

I savour every delicious mouthful of his home cooked lasagne. Then one of his tenants walks in. Agnes is French.

And I am very happy to note that she looks nothing like the playboy model I had envisaged. His other tenant is male so I can relax a little now.

Then Agnes’ gorgeous friend follows her in and my stomach tightens. Her eyes light up when she sees Jake.

Agnes introduces Millie to him but not me. Jake is quick to rectify that “This is my girlfriend, Kitty”.

I grin inanely at her. My fake smiles always make me look a little deranged, which may explain why she disappears upstairs rather quickly.

I spend the next five minutes watching Agnes trying to flirt with Jake.

He is polite but distant in the way he talks to her. She, on the other hand, is clearly smitten with him. I mention this when she leaves the room. He tells me that I’m “being silly”.

I find that incredibly annoying. I point out the constant flicking of her hair as she spoke to him and the puppy dog eyes. Not to mention the barely concealed hostility towards me. He opens his mouth to speak. I tell him I hope he isn’t going to patronise me again.

He admits that she is a little weird which is why he keeps her at arms’ length. Then I think about the way women stare at him everywhere we go. And my stomach tightens again.

I’m feeling incredibly insecure and that is a huge setback for me; one of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older is the confidence that comes with it.

It’s taken a long time for me to become comfortable in my own skin. The realisation that I would never be pretty first hit me when I was nine;

We were in Cyprus and I had a cousin the same age who was not only beautiful but had blue eyes which made her very special. Everywhere we went, people stopped us to tell her how beautiful she was.

My mother tried to comfort me with “Never mind, you’re clever” so I threw myself into learning and being as smart as possible.

But I still couldn’t help wanting to be pretty. I used to look in the mirror and imagine how much better my life would be if only I looked like my cousin.

I didn’t see her again for nine years. And by that point I was utterly consumed with jealousy. I had to drink lots of vodka before I could go home and face that vision of perfection.

I walked in to find an acne ridden overweight teenager whose eyebrows met in the middle of those (admittedly) still beautiful blue eyes.

And I learned a simple lesson. Be happy with who you are. Don’t compare yourself to other people.

Then I read a quote from Anjelica Huston “Someone once said to me, you’ll never be pretty but you’ll always be magnificent”.

I had already accepted that my big nose and uneven features meant that I would never be pretty. So I focused on being magnificent.

But being with Jake could easily undo all my hard work.

I tell him I’m not sure I can do this “I don’t want to be constantly competing with other women”.

He tells me that I’m not competing with anyone. He has no interest in anyone else. He is in love with me. My stomach does a little flip. He is in love with me. We kiss and I start to unbutton his shirt when Agnes walks back in again.

She sits on the end of the sofa “So, how did you two meet?” Her manner is very abrupt. I tell myself that it could simply be because her grasp of English is poor. And that’s why I shouldn’t tell her to fuck off (yet).

Jake buttons his shirt back up “I don't mean to be rude but we’re trying to enjoy a romantic evening alone”. She remains seated.

Jake takes my hand and leads me to his bedroom. I warn him that she is a bunny boiler. And insist that he locks the door. I don't want to wake up with a knife in my chest.

Then I catch sight of myself in the mirror; the soft glow of moonlight falls across my face. And I can see my high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and lovely lips.

I’m not pretty but I am magnificent.

I’m still staring at my reflection when the room suddenly becomes very bright. Jake has turned the light on because he wants to see me ‘properly’. I almost scream in horror. It was just a trick of the light.

I'm not magnificent at all. I'm hideous.

Perhaps it’s time to consider surgery?

I wake up in a state of panic. How long have I been asleep? Am I late picking Mia up? I check the time. Shit. It’s eight o’clock.

I stand up too quickly. And make myself dizzy. I lean against the wall to steady myself.

Then I remember that it’s Friday. And Mark picked Mia up from school today. But my relief is short-lived because I also remember that I was supposed to meet Jake thirty minutes ago.

I grab my phone; fourteen missed calls from him. He picks up straight away “What happened? Are you ok?” I assure him that I’m fine “I just had a little nap”.

He says he has been very worried about me. I’m a little confused. Then alarm bells start to ring; he has called me fourteen times in the last thirty minutes.

Damn it. I knew he was too good to be true. He is about to turn obsessive psycho on me.

The disappointment is evident in my voice “I think you’re over reacting a tad”.

He responds with “Really? You don’t turn up for our date last night and I don’t hear from you until this morning and you think I’m over reacting?”

Last night?

Apparently it’s eight o’clock Saturday morning. I am fully dressed, my feet are filthy and I have been asleep for almost seventeen hours straight.

I apologise profusely and promise that I’ll make it up to him tonight.

Then I realise that the house is eerily quiet. And that just adds to my sense of disorientation.

They must be having a lie-in. But why aren’t they snoring? Oh my god. I didn’t smother them in my sleep did I? I run into their (thankfully empty) bedrooms.

Then I go downstairs. The living room is empty but there is a pillow and duvet on the sofa. Who slept there and why? What is going on? I feel like I have woken up in some kind of twilight zone.

Then I have a flashback to what happened before I fell asleep yesterday afternoon (or lost consciousness, I’m not sure which);

My mother had started shouting at me the moment I walked in through the door “Why did you run off? Where did you go? We’ve been worried sick. You should have more consideration for us”.

And that’s when I snapped “I should have more consideration? What about your bloody snoring? And your noisy friends and canary and radio and television? I can’t sleep. It’s driving me mad. I want to smother you with your pillow just to shut you up”.

She ignored my outburst and put her hand on my forehead. “You feel hot” Then she looked down at my muddy feet. “You’re barefoot! What did you do with the slippers?”

I proudly declared that I threw them in the river. And when she asked me why, I told her that I didn’t want her life thank you very much. Then I went upstairs and collapsed on the bed.

I feel terrible. I must apologise to her. Where is she? The kitchen is empty too. Then I notice her through the window.

She is climbing up a ladder in the garden brandishing a hedge trimmer. And wearing her high heeled slippers.

My father is six foot four to her five foot nothing. So she wears heels all the time. And the fact that they caused her to break not only her own leg but my father's as well hasn't deterred her in the slightest.

Of course her version of events absolves both herself and her heels of any blame. Apparently my father lost his balance as he was getting in the taxi. She had tried to steady him. And he had fallen on top of her.

My father’s version (and the one we were all more inclined to believe) is that my mothers’ high heels had caused her to stumble on the cobbles. She had grabbed hold of him to steady herself as she fell backwards and pulled him down on top of her.

They were on holiday in Turkey at the time. And my father had refused to allow the surgeons there to operate on them. So my brothers had flown out to bring them back home.

We all dined out on that particular story for some time. They even featured on a BBC documentary about Guy’s Hospital when a doctor was asked about unusual cases and cited my parents.

There was a hilarious shot of them sitting opposite each other with their right legs in plaster.

I remind her about the metal plate in her leg. And suggest that she either gets off the ladder or takes off her heels.

She is (understandably) giving me the silent treatment. But her anger is evident in the ferocious way she is trimming the hedge.

I apologise for what I said yesterday. I explain that I was very tired. And that I didn’t mean it.

She brushes the trimmings off the top of the hedge. And right into my face. Then she gets off the ladder without acknowledging me. I stay a safe distance away until she puts the hedge trimmer down.

Then I follow her into the kitchen. The silent treatment is usually followed by lots of shouting and screaming.

I prepare for it by getting her the glass of water she’ll need when she feels faint because her blood pressure has gone up.

Then she throws me by asking (very quietly) “Do you think this is the life that I had wanted for myself?”

I wasn’t expecting that. And I’m not sure how to respond. I had always assumed that she was satisfied with her life. But I think I may have confused satisfaction with acceptance.

I know her life hasn’t been easy;

Her abusive bastard of a father died when she was ten and in that time widows could not remarry. So my grandmother took her out of school and engaged her to my father at the age of thirteen.

My mother never forgave her for that. Her friends were playing hopscotch while she was being a little housewife. She had five children (and a nervous breakdown) by the time she was twenty four.

Then the 1974 invasion happened and she had to leave behind everything she knew and start again with five children (I wasn't born until years later)

My father had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and temporarily lost his sight the moment he got them all to the safety of the UK.

He was hospitalised for months. Meanwhile my grandmother had a stroke that left her partially paralysed.

I am still contemplating her life and my response when she answers her own question “No Kitty. This was not the life I wanted for myself and it is definitely not the life I would ever want for you”.

I suddenly feel very small. We sit in silence for a while. Then she says “I’m sorry my snoring has kept you awake. I’ll sleep on the sofa. You won’t be able to hear me from there”.

I tell her that I would rather find somewhere else for us to stay than force her out of her bed.

She shakes her head “No. You mustn’t leave. Give me the chance to take care of you, even if only for a few weeks”.

I tell her that I don’t need to be taken care of. She shakes her head as her eyes fill up. I hand her a tissue. “I know you don’t. You have always taken care of yourself. But I need to take care of you.”

I wait for her to continue. She nervously twists the tissue around in her hands “You were born at a very difficult time”.

She pauses as her voice falters “In Cyprus we had been rich. In England we became paupers. I was always busy working on that god forsaken over-locking machine when you were a baby. Then as you were growing up, I was either taking care of the grandchildren or my mother. You had to bring yourself up. It was easier for the others. They were a lot older and they had each other”.

The tears are streaming down her face “But you were alone. I never had any time for you. And I’m very sorry for that”.

I’m not sure what to say because what she is saying is true. And for a long time I simply thought she didn’t love me.

That's why I was angry with her for years. I tried to hurt her as much as possible because I held her responsible for every single thing that ever went wrong in my life.

Then I realised that there comes a point when you have to take responsibility for your own life and stop blaming other people for your bad choices.

So I decided that I would only ever look back to gain understanding, not to apportion blame; that allowed me to make peace with both myself and my mother.

And helped me to understand that she loved me as much as she possibly could.

I tell her that I have a lot to apologise for too. She says we are both guilty but that she is guiltier “I knew you were going through your own hell but I never asked you about it because I was afraid of the answers. I thought your pain would kill me.”

And I finally understand why she never reached out to me.

When Mia first cried because she missed her father, I did everything I could to make her stop. I offered her chocolate and when that didn’t work I tried to make her laugh by wearing knickers on my head and doing a silly dance.

Then I realised that I was being selfish. I wanted her to stop crying because I couldn’t bear her pain, particularly when I thought I was responsible for it.

So I took her in my arms. And I told her that it was ok to cry because she missed her daddy; her need to express that emotion was far greater than my selfish need to suppress it.

And had my mother’s life been different; if she were capable of those thought processes then I am certain that she would have come to the same conclusion.

I reassure my mother that I would have been a fucked up teenager even if she had spent every waking hour with me. And that there isn’t a single thing I would have changed because I am the sum of all my experiences.

I tell her that I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

And I mean it because she was the best mother that she could possibly have been in those circumstances.

She gently strokes the scars on my arm and whispers “Thank you".

The mixture of gratitude and relief on her face is heartbreaking. I lean over and kiss her forehead.

Then she looks down at my bare feet “I’ll buy you different slippers. You can choose them”. I stand up and take a pair of fluffy pink boudoir slippers out of the box.

I squeeze my feet into them and smile “No mum, these ones are fine for me”.

Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture during times of war. And I can completely understand why.

I would be willing to divulge any and all information right now in exchange for some sleep.

Obviously this means that I must avoid my mother at all costs; particularly as she has yet to interrogate me about Jake. I am praying that she isn’t home. But I can hear the shrill tones of her gang even before I open the door.

All I want is some peace and quiet so that I can sleep. Is that really too much to ask? I close the door quietly behind me, remove my shoes and start to tip toe up the stairs.

Then I hear “Kitty! We’re in the kitchen. Come and join us.” Damn it. I’m really not in the mood for them. I try to ignore her and continue up the stairs.

But I’m not fast enough. Her head appears around the door “Come and say hello to Afet”. Great, her little club has a fourth member today.

She observes my bare feet. Then reaches into her slipper box and hands me a pair of high heeled fluffy red slippers.

I tell her that they are a little too boudoir for me. And a size too small. But she insists I squeeze my feet into them.

“You’ll get a stomach ache walking around with bare feet”. I’m too tired to challenge her village 'wisdom' so I decide to just do as I’m told.

Then she leads me into the kitchen and puts a small cup (decorated with a map of Cyprus) in front of me. I hate Turkish coffee but the quicker I drink it, the quicker I can escape.

They turn their coffee cups upside down onto their saucers as soon as they’re finished. I follow suit.

The saucers are also decorated with a map of Cyprus. And there is a framed map of Cyprus on the wall (lest we should forget where we’re from).

My mother takes Meyrem’s cup and starts ‘reading’ the coffee residue “I see a bird. Oh, that means you will fly, far, far away. I see a crescent. You will go back to Cyprus, for a visit, not forever”.

She claps her hands happily “Oh good”. Afet isn’t impressed “But you go back to Cyprus every year”. I seem to recall that there is some sort of friction between her and my mother.

Meyrem insists that she didn’t know if she would be going back this year. Afet scoffs “You told me you already had the tickets“. She shakes her head furiously “Fatma has just seen it in the cup. This is the first I knew of it”

My mother’s pursed lips are a warning sign. She clicks her knuckles. Then abruptly rounds up the reading “I see a tree, a tree bearing fruit, you will eat plenty of fruit. I also see sunshine. There will be sunshine in your life. Everything is good for you Meyrem”.

She puts her cup to one side and takes Afet’s. “I see a goat. A goat brings prosperity and wealth” Afet’s cynicism is quickly replaced by excitement at the mention of money "Am I going to win the lottery?"

My mother shakes her head as she looks in the cup “Oh no wait. It is a bad sign. The goat only has three legs, this is not good”.

Afet leans over to have a look at the cup. She moves it away from her and continues “I see tears, not of joy, but of shame and sadness. You must pray to Allah to forgive you for your sins”.

She is getting very upset “No, you are mistaken! I haven’t sinned”. My mother snaps at her “Yes you have. I see a figure of a woman, she is missing her hand. It has been chopped off for stealing”.

Poor Afet is very red in the face “Show me. Show me where you see this”.

She lunges for the cup. My mother clings to it and they tug at the cup between them. “Oh, you’ve ruined it. The coffee has moved. It’s just sludge now”.

Afet glares angrily at my mother whilst making a few choice hand gestures. Hatice grabs my mother’s monitor “Let me measure your blood pressure. I think it is dangerously high right now”

She shakes her off her arm. Then Afet gets up and storms out of the house. Hatice immediately asks if she really saw that in the cup. My mother shakes her head “No but I will never forgive her for what she did back in Cyprus.”

Apparently she stole loquats from her garden. “She’s always denied it but I saw her selling my loquats at the market and she didn’t have loquat trees in her garden, she had fig trees”.

I shake my head in exasperation “That was over thirty five years ago. Just fucking let it go”. She slaps me around the head in response. I take that as my cue to leave but she pulls me back into the chair. “Wait. I will read your cup then you can leave”.

She picks it up and stares at it for a while. “Hmmm...I see entwined hands. You will get married again to a dark haired man” I roll my eyes at her predictability. “I suppose he’s a Turkish Cypriot?” Correct.

Then I look down and realise that we are all wearing matching slippers. And somehow this image symbolises my future. My vision starts to blur.

She continues with “I see a stork”. I take a closer look at the cup. It really does look like a stork. “You will have another child. A boy”. She puts the cup down satisfied with her vision of my future.

Unfortunately it's a vision that is supported by the quartet of slippers that I can't stop staring at. My head is starting to spin.

Then she suggests I join them at the bingo hall this evening “We go every Friday”.

And it suddenly feels like the walls are closing in on me.

I can hear my mother shouting after me as I run out of the door and straight to the nearby river. The water usually has a calming effect on me. But all I can think of when I look at it now is the flooding that forced me out of my home. And back into my parents.

We’ve only been there for a few days but it feels like so much longer. And I’m scared the repair work will keep dragging on and I’ll be stuck there forever; wearing silly slippers and drinking coffee with nothing to look forward to except Friday night bingo.

That is not the life I had planned for myself. But I had never planned on being a single parent either. When I got married I had expected it to last for the rest of our lives. I had wanted someone to grow old with. I still do.

But I’m in love with a man I feel I have to stay young for. And what’s even worse is that despite being insanely pre-menstrual for a week, my period never actually arrived.

Apparently that is a relatively common occurrence with the type of pill I’m taking. But I have to consider the possibility that I may be pregnant. I know. I should just take a pregnancy test. And I will. Just as soon as I have prepared myself for the worst case scenario;

The options are simple. If I am pregnant then I either continue with the pregnancy or I terminate it.

I can’t continue with it.

Jake isn’t ready for that sort of responsibility and it’s not something I want to do alone again. In fact, right now, it’s not something I want to do at all.

So I have to terminate.

Then my hand instinctively (and protectively) moves to cover my stomach. I always said I would terminate an unwanted pregnancy. But I have never been tested on that. And I’m not sure I could bring myself to do it.

I would forever be thinking “My baby would have been crawling around about now.... My baby would have been starting school now.... My baby would be graduating now”. It would become a stick to beat myself with for the rest of my life.

So the options are actually anything but simple. What the hell am I going to do? And why is there a dog licking my toes? I pull my feet away from it.

Then I notice that the red boudoir slippers are covered in mud. And that means they no longer match the others. I stomp around in the mud to make them even dirtier.

But the scary symbolism is still visible in the remaining traces of red. So I take them off and throw them in the river. Then I feel much better. I also feel a little delirious.

I really need to sleep. And no canary and its radio or mother and her cronies or worries about babies that may or may not exist are going to stop me.

I walk barefoot back towards the house (hoping I don't get a stomach ache).

"I’m afraid Mia has been involved in a very serious incident". I grab the banister for support as my legs buckle under me.

I try to speak but I can’t find my voice. I’m silently willing her to explain further.

But she remains silent.

I grab my car key and run outside. Then she finally speaks “She hit another child”. I burst into hysterical laughter “Is that all?”

She scolds me with “It’s not a laughing matter”. I explain that I am laughing out of sheer relief. She almost gave me a bloody heart attack; my hands are still shaking.

Her tone is condescending “As I said, this is a very serious matter”.

My relief is quickly replaced by anger. I suggest that it may have been less irresponsible to start the conversation with “Mia is fine” before throwing words like “very serious incident” at me.

And what was with the long dramatic pause? “I was waiting for you to digest the information I had given you”. I tell her that her information was frighteningly vague and therefore almost impossible to digest. In fact I almost choked on it.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you. I was simply calling to ask you to come and take Mia home. She needs to cool off”. And so do I; her tone is really starting to piss me off.

I have barely set foot in her office when she starts lecturing me about the school’s zero tolerance policy on violence. I tell her I’m confused. Mia isn’t the sort of child who lashes out. I ask her to talk me through what happened.

Apparently Mia got into a physical fight with a boy in her class. “Who hit who first?” She tells me that's irrelevant. I disagree. I have taught my daughter that she should never hit someone unless they hit her first.

The boy in question is a known bully “Did he hit her first?” Yes. “In which case, she has done nothing wrong. She acted in self defence”.

She also gave him a bloody nose (I told her to hit back as hard as she could). I explain to Miss Mullins that children who do not hit back end up being bullied. She says that the school rules are very clear; you must not hit anyone under any circumstances.

I tell her that particular rule is flawed and as such, I have advised Mia not to follow it. “You cannot do that. Mia has to follow all the school rules”.

Again, I disagree “She will not blindly follow every single rule you have. She has a right to question them. We all do. It is then up to you to provide justification. And in my opinion, you haven’t been able to justify this particular rule”.

Then there is a knock at the door and a puffy faced Mia is brought in. I give her a big hug. And tell her that she has done nothing wrong while Miss Mullins looks on disapprovingly.

It’s only when we get back to the car that I realise I've locked myself out of the house. We drive to Melek’s to get the spare keys. And end up staying for lunch.

It is early evening by the time we get home. The door feels a little stiff. And I have to really put my weight against it to push it open. Then all this water comes rushing out over our feet.

I don’t know what to do. My mind goes into overdrive. And my body remains frozen to the spot. Then Mia takes me firmly by the hand and says “We need to find out where the water is coming from”. I let her pull me inside.

The water is coming down the stairs. The carpets are ruined. Then she points to the bowed ceiling. And that’s when I remember; I had been running myself a bath when Miss Mullins had called.

I run upstairs to turn the tap off. How could I be so stupid? I scream in anger. Then the tears come.

Mia brings me a tissue and tries to comfort me “You should see this as one of life’s obstacles mummy and just have faith that we can overcome it”.

I immediately stop crying “Where on earth did you get that from?” She looks very pleased with herself “Television! See, I do learn things from watching television!”

I reluctantly pack a suitcase. We can’t stay here tonight. I make a quick phone call. Then we get back in the car.

I take a deep breath before I ring the bell.

My mother opens the door and starts shouting “They’re here! They’re here!” Meyrem and Hatice (her neighbours) come out of the kitchen laughing their heads off “We hear you flooded your house! What a silly thing to do”. I resist the urge to slap them.

“It’s very good of you to take them in Fatma”. My mother shrugs her shoulders. And revels in her martyrdom “What else could we do? Leave them out on the street?”

I excuse myself to unpack. Mia and I will have to share a bed in my grandmother’s old room. I open the wardrobe and put a pile of clothes on the top shelf.

My hand brushes against something cold. I carefully pull out a large hunting knife. Then I take it downstairs to my mother “Why is this in the wardrobe? I could have cut myself.”

She laughs as she takes it from me “Oh, I was wondering where that was!” And I make a mental note to check all the places that Mia is likely to put her hand in.

“Mummy, I’ve just had four biscuits and a crème egg”. My mother sighs “Mia, we agreed to lie about that!” So not only is she pumping my child full of E numbers, she is encouraging her to lie to me.

I must not lose my temper; she can’t do too much damage in a couple of days. I thank Mia for her honesty. And scowl at my mother.

But she doesn’t notice; they are taking it in turns to measure their sugar levels. My mother is the only one with diabetes. Then they start measuring each other’s blood pressure. Predictably all three score highly.

Then Meyrem almost chokes on a piece of bread and has a coughing fit. Hatice diagnoses her with a chest infection and offers her some antibiotics she has “left over from before”.

I'm horrified “You can’t give someone medication that hasn’t been prescribed for them”. She dismisses me with a wave of her hand.

But I persist “It’s a very dangerous thing to do. Meyrem could be taking medication that your antibiotics react against.” She tells me that they do it all the time and none of them have died yet.

I turn to my mother “I hope you’re not doing it”. She shakes her head. Then they start to giggle like naughty little schoolgirls. I am just starting to lose my patience with them when the doorbell rings.

My mother introduces me to Meyrem’s nephew. Then they launch into what appears to be a sales pitch.”Doesn’t Gϋlenay look good for thirty-five?” “She’s educated you know, a lawyer”.

Then it’s his turn “Mustafa is an accountant”. Mustafa also bears more than a passing resemblance to Borat. I cringe as he sizes me up like a prize cow.

I grab my mother and pull her into the hallway “What do you think you’re doing?” She feigns ignorance. “And you know full well that I have a boyfriend”.

Actually she doesn’t. Surprisingly Ayșe didn’t mention Jake when she was telling her about my blog. But now I have. Damn it.

I tell her that it’s rude of her to neglect her guests and push her back into the kitchen. Then escape upstairs to bed.

There is a large framed photograph of my grandmother on the wall. I always thought that was sweet but it’s actually a little spooky at night. Every time I open my eyes she is looking down at me.

Mia falls asleep very quickly. But I am having difficulty drowning out the sound of the radio (for Rϋștϋ) and the television.

Turkish television is pretty unpredictable, the volume will suddenly go up to ear piercing levels. And my mother narrates very loudly all the way through.

I put the pillow over my head but I still can’t drown out the sounds. And there is no reprieve when they go to bed either.

They both snore, loudly and incessantly (which is why they sleep in separate bedrooms). Our room is in the middle. It sounds like a god-awful torturous symphony.

I get up to use the bathroom. Then sleepily make my way back to the bedroom. My heart almost stops; there is a woman in a long white nightdress standing in front of me. She doesn’t speak. It’s my grandmother’s ghost.

She holds her arms out. I scream. And she screams back. I turn on the light. It’s my mother. Apparently she heard me get up and was worried that I was ill. I tell her that I just needed to pee.

And that doesn’t explain why she just stood there silently staring at me “I didn’t want to startle you”. What about the outstretched arms? “I thought you needed a hug”.

I tell her (through gritted teeth) that what I need right now is sleep. I go back to bed. At least I have a head start now; I can try and get to sleep before she does. But I have barely settled back when I hear her snoring again.

It feels like I have only just dozed off when I am woken up by a combination of Rϋștϋ chirping and my mother slamming cupboards in the kitchen.

I have a very strong coffee before I drive Mia to school. Then stop off to buy earplugs. It’s either that or commit parricide; I actually considered smothering my mother with a pillow last night. I get back to a wonderfully empty house. And a note from my mother.

They have gone to the Cypriot Community Centre; a government funded organisation that is supposed to promote unity between the elder members of the two sides. That (like Marxism)is wonderful in theory but a dismal failure in reality.

Admittedly I enjoy hearing the stories every week; on one occasion my mother had got into an exchange of words with a Greek Cypriot lady.

One of my mother’s Turkish Cypriot comrades then came to her defence. And started attacking the other woman with her walking stick. Then a full scale hair-pulling, face slapping brawl broke out amongst the rest of the women. And it was left to their men folk to break it up.

Then there was the recent spring trip to the seaside where an administrative error left them two seats short on the coach. It had been agreed that the fairest way to allocate seats would be on a first come first served basis.

Then the last two people on happened to be Greek and the majority Greek administration asked a Turkish couple to get off and let them on.

At that point my father intervened and instructed the Turkish couple to stay in their seats.

Then turned on his Greek adversaries “You think because there are more of you that you can do what you like? You may have got away with it in Cyprus but you will not get away with it here”.

This led to a long stand-off between the two sides. And the trip was cancelled.

They will be fighting with the Greeks for most of the day so I decide to catch up on my sleep. But the radio is blaring out. I turn it off. Then Rϋștϋ starts chirping like a canary possessed. I turn it back on. And he stops.

I tune it to an English station. He starts his crazed chirping again. I put it back on to Turkish. He stops. I do this several times until I am forced to concede that the bloody canary really does like listening to Turkish radio.

Then my phone rings with bad news. The damage is much more extensive than I had thought. We’re going to be here for at least two weeks.

And that leaves me with only two options; parricide or suicide.

I am sitting on my bed; half naked and crying like a baby.

How did this happen? Why is this happening? I hug my knees and rock back and forth mumbling to myself “I can’t wear an odd pair. I just can’t”.

Then I realise how ridiculous I sound. And it occurs to me that I may be over-reacting somewhat.

Yes. It is annoying that I have mislaid one of my stockings but does it really warrant body heaving sobs?

No. Of course it doesn’t. So what the hell is wrong with me? The stockings were merely the trigger; this must be about something much deeper than that. I frantically rack my brain for the underlying cause.

But I am actually happy with my life at the moment. Or maybe I just think I am and my subconscious is trying to tell me otherwise? What have I buried that needs to be dealt with? And if it’s buried so deeply that I don’t even know what it is then how do I get to it?

Then I feel a dull ache in my stomach. And that ache saves me from hours of painfully pointless over analysis; I must be pre-menstrual. I’ve been suffering from it really badly since I started taking that bloody progestogen only pill.

Apparently the risks associated with the combined pill increase significantly once you get to thirty-five; my doctor's words ring in my ears “You’re too old to continue taking it”. And I start crying again. I get up and look in the mirror at my puffy face “I look old. I am old.” I wail at my reflection.

Then I notice my stocking on the bed behind me. I had been sitting on it.

I’m immediately and ridiculously happy, skipping around the bedroom clutching my stocking to my chest. Then I curl up on the bed exhausted. These extreme mood swings can be very tiring. I really must find an alternative method of contraception.

I’m feeling sleepy. Maybe I should just cancel tonight and get under the covers. Then I get a text from Jake see you soon – can’t wait xx.

And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I have thirty minutes to make myself look presentable. I get up and splash cold water on my face.

Then I carry out some quick repair work before he arrives; physically I'll pass but I’m worried that my emotional schizophrenia could blight the evening.

So I stand in front of the mirror and give myself a good talking to “You know why you’re emotional so you should be able to control it. Don’t fuck up the evening or you’ll have me to answer to, get it?” My reflection nods sullenly at me.

I meet Jake outside my favourite restaurant; an Italian tucked away in the backstreets of Soho.

I love the slightly rickety old tables covered with red checked tablecloths. And the way they always greet me like a long lost friend (even if I had only eaten there the day before).

Bella, we have missed you” Alvise kisses my hand. Then gives Jake the once over before seating us at my favourite table.

I smile at Jake. I have never felt such a strong physical attraction to someone in my life. He looks delicious. And he’s mine. This is going to be a fabulous evening.

Then Anthony walks in. What the hell is he doing here? This is my restaurant; my bloody territory. He lost the right to come here when we split up. I watch as a very attractive woman follows close behind.

This really is too much. I hide behind my menu before he can spot me. Alvise greets Anthony. Then turns and throws me a ‘what’s going on?’ look. I’ll be damned if I know.

But I can’t help peering around the side of the menu to take a closer look at the woman. Dark hair. Olive skin. Prominent nose. She could be Greek. Oh my god. Is that Maria?

He seats them at the furthest table from ours. But it’s a small restaurant. So it’s still too close. Jake exposes me by taking the menu away “That’s better. I can see you now”.

I quickly excuse myself and go to the bathroom. I need to pee. I also need to think. Why is this happening now? I knew I’d bump into him sooner or later but I wasn’t expecting it to be here. And not when I’m trying to control my PMT.

I sit on the toilet. What do I do? Do I tell Maria what a cheating shit he is? Or is she better off living in ignorant bliss? But am I being a traitor to my own sex by not telling her?

What’s the moral code for this situation? I take several deep breaths. How do I feel about seeing Anthony? Angry. Very angry. Does that mean I still have feelings for him? No. I’m angry because he is an arsehole.

Then I tug (angrily) at the toilet paper. The large plastic toilet roll holder box flips open and smacks me very hard on the side of the face. It really fucking hurts. I blink back the tears. Then I check my reflection; I have a red welt on my cheekbone.

I am putting all my energy into not losing control emotionally so something has to give. And it’s my balance. I trip over the step and go flying into the restaurant.

Alvise helps me back on to my feet. Then he notices my cheek. And draws even more attention to me by making a big fuss. Anthony looks up and actually has the nerve to smile at me. I scowl back.

Jake comes over “What happened? Are you ok?” I assure him that I’m fine. Then notice that my stocking is ripped. Why didn’t I just stay in bed? Alvise tells him he’ll look after me and leads me into the kitchen.

He gets me an ice pack then asks “Now, what is happening with you and the Greek?” I explain that we had got back together.

Then I found out he had a girlfriend. “The bastard. You want me to throw him out?” I tell him no as I pull off my stockings; bare legs are less trashy than ripped stockings.

I make my way back to the table, holding the ice pack to my cheek. I can feel Anthony’s eyes following me all the way back. Jake looks concerned “Is everything ok?” I smile and try to behave ‘normally’ but he notices that I’m distracted.

So I confess that Anthony is a recent ex. And that it didn’t end too well. He isn’t at all fazed. He doesn’t even look around to check him out.

It’s wonderful to be with a man who is so secure and self-assured. So why I can’t help thinking that he should at least be a little jealous?

I try to focus on Jake but I can’t help watching that creep out of the corner of my eye. He is putting on a little show for me, leaning over to stroke her face and holding her hand.

Then Jake goes to the bathroom. And I decide to make Anthony sweat a little.

I walk over to their table. “Hello Anthony” He isn’t looking quite so cocky now. Then I turn to the woman “And you must be Maria”. She isn’t. She hisses at him “Who is Maria?” He explains that she is his ex-girlfriend.

Then she asks (in a distinctly hostile tone) “And who is she?” I explain that I am also his ex-girlfriend. Then I wish her luck and walk off. She doesn’t look too happy.

I can hear her giving him a hard time as I sit back down “Why did she wish me luck? How many ex-girlfriends have you got exactly?” I watch him squirm. Then she insists that they leave. And they do.

Her behaviour leaves me in no doubt that they are not in the early stages of a relationship; he was probably seeing her at the same time as me and Maria. And that makes me incredibly angry.

Then Jake comes back and takes my hand in his. He looks at me in a way that simultaneously dissipates my anger, makes me tingle and temporarily disconnects my brain from my mouth;

It’s-probably-too-soon-to-say-this- and-I-probably- shouldn’t- say- it- now-and-I’ve-certainly-never-said-it-this-quickly-before-not-that-I’ve-even-said-it-that-many-times-but-I-really-can’t-help-how-I-feel”.

The connection is restored before I make a complete fool of myself. But I’ve already said too much. Jake is waiting for me to continue. I must think quickly.

Then Alvise bends down and (stage) whispers in my ear “Say it, just say it. Tell him you love him”. My cheeks are burning. This is so embarrassing.

Jake leans over and kisses me “I love you too”. I burst into tears. Then I quickly explain that they are tears of happiness. And that I am very hormonal which makes me emotionally unstable. He tells me I’m cute as he wipes my tears away.

I’m still feeling emotionally unstable when Mark drops Mia off in the morning. He asks me what happened to my cheek. And his concerned expression makes me well up.

I explain how it happened. There is a brief pause. Then they both start laughing. And Mia’s laugh is infectious so I find myself laughing with them.

Then he turns to look at me as he leaves. And I feel a huge pang of regret as I watch him walk away.

That does it. First thing tomorrow I’m going to get the contraceptive injection.

Ayșe can barely contain her excitement “Ha! You’re not the only president in the family now you know!”

She pauses for dramatic effect. Then clears her throat very loudly to ensure she has the attention of the entire room before proudly announcing that she is the newly elected president of the North London Turkish Cypriot Association.

I tell her that I’m very happy for her. But I’m also a little confused “What am I the president of?” She responds with “The student union of course”. I laugh then realise that she is being serious “But that was so many years ago”.

Apparently that is irrelevant. The important point for me (and everyone else) to note is that I am no longer the only one in the family who can claim that title.

I don’t have the heart to tell my insanely competitive sister that I never cared about the title. And that I only did it because I wanted an office to get stoned in with my friends.

Then I realise that I haven’t actually thought about that period of my life for years. And in retrospect, I think the presidency was responsible for more than simply getting me high. It also paved the way for a (mainly farcical) rite of passage;

I quickly realise that I need a political platform to sustain my position so I take the safe option and join the National Organisation of Labour Students. Then the manifestos for the N.U.S National Executive elections come through.

I had decided not to stand. But I open it to find my mini-skirted image staring back at me with a manifesto that I didn’t write. I am incredulous.

So I leave them and join ‘The Leninist’ instead. I read Lenin, Marx and Engels. Then it all starts to make sense. Equality is the way forward. It’s something worth fighting for. And I can finally be a rebel with a cause.

I start wearing Red Army jackets (covered in badges of Lenin and Marx) with a micro skirt (read ‘belt’) shirt and tie. I complete the look with a pair of doc marten boots. Then I smother my face with make-up, backcomb my hair to within an inch of its life and smear my lips with bright red lipstick.

Then I react aggressively when people stare at me in the street “What the hell are you looking at?” And I am absolutely furious on Comic Relief day when people keep giving me the thumbs up and saying stupid things like “Nice one!”

I am indignant when they try to give me money and tell me I’m a sport for dressing up for Comic Relief. Obviously I can see their point now but at the time I honestly didn’t think there was anything remotely amusing about the way I chose to ‘express myself’.

The sixteen year old Kitty is making me positively squirm with embarrassment. And it actually gets worse;

I start to greet people with the words "What we need is a violent revolution followed by a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat". Yes. I really spoke like that. And I really was ready to start a revolution.

I would threaten anyone who crossed me with the words “Come the day of the revolution my friend and your back will be up against that wall”.

No wonder I was considered weird. I looked like a war waging drag queen. And I spoke like an automaton.

Then I find myself sitting in a seminar entitled ‘modern art and communism’. I listen impatiently. Why are we wasting our time like this? I put my hand up and say “Comrades, when are we going to start educating the working classes so they can rise like yeast?”

They shift around uncomfortably in their seats. Comrade Stan murmurs that we have to wait until the time is right. But none of them can actually tell me when that time will be.

It’s obvious now that they were all armchair revolutionaries playing at being radicals. Comrade Stan even wore a flat cap. But I was young and naive. And I really thought we were going to change the world.

I get really excited when they tell me about the ‘summer offensive’ where we all have to raise money for the organisation. Surely that means we can start funding the revolution? Erm..no.

The money is to pay the mortgage of our ‘unofficial leader’ whose house is used as a venue to discuss such pressing issues as the aforesaid link between modern art and communism.

Apparently the poor man can’t get a job because he has been blacklisted by the government for his political beliefs. I start to lose faith. I raise five hundred pounds though street collections then I sit on my bed looking at the money.

I remember George Orwell "I look from man to pig and pig to man and can no longer tell the difference". And I wise up.

If I thought they were anything other than armchair revolutionaries, I would happily hand over the money to support the cause.

But I refuse to contribute towards the mortgage of a lazy middle class drop-out who has no more intention of starting a revolution than he does of getting a job.

I keep the money and don’t go back. A lesson learned. I go from being naively idealistic to cynically corrupt practically overnight.

I become a Goth. And decide that I can’t save the world but I can save myself. I re-write the constitution so I can stand as president for a consecutive year. I get it passed by the suits at the board of governors by slipping it in under ‘any other business’.

I had learned that they would agree to anything to end a tedious four hour meeting (I got through it by adding copious amounts of vodka to my McDonalds coke). I don’t believe I left one of those meetings sober.

I follow the rules. And put up posters calling for nominations (at 6pm when everyone has left). Then I take them down again at 8am (before anyone arrives). That means they were up for the requisite minimum of twelve hours. It also means I get in un-apposed.

I take the executive (comprising of my friends) to Amsterdam on a student union ‘cultural tour’. I put speakers in the common room and blast out music all day. The principal wants them removed.

I refuse and explain that I have had the speakers installed in such a way that if they are disconnected incorrectly it would amount to criminal damage. So they stay.

I get attacked at NUS conference by militant "feminists" for “selling out to the male fantasy” because I have long hair. I say they are confused and ask them why, if they hate men so much, do they try so hard to look like them? I tell them they suffer from penis envy. Then make a run for it before they rearrange my face.

I cause chaos everywhere I go. I am full of the arrogance of youth. And dangerously aware of the power of sexuality. The militants had called me an ‘anti-feminist’. But I believed that being a feminist meant using your sexuality, not denying it.

And that belief almost certainly saved me from a criminal record; I would wear a short skirt or a low cut top whenever I needed the deputy principal to sign cheques that were slightly dubious. He was always too distracted by me leaning over him to look at what he was signing.

So when he tells me that accusations have been made against me for mismanagement of union funds, I respond with “Surely these unfounded accusations are also directed against you given that you co-signed every one of the cheques in question?”

I smile sweetly at him as his face turns puce. He is left with no choice other than to agree that the accusations are unfounded and that no further action is required.

Then my trip down memory lane is brought to an abrupt end by Ayșe elbowing me in the ribs. She is laughing so hard I’m worried she’ll wet herself “Look at the state of you!”

My mother has found evidence of my militia slut look. And is passing the album around “See what she put us through?” Her friends make sympathetic noises and shake their heads at me.

My mother sighs “Thank goodness she has changed”.

Admittedly, the way I look now is (thankfully) very different. But I’m not sure that the essence of me has changed that significantly;

I still believe in equality but acknowledge that it is an impossible ideal. I still wear red lipstick but only on special occasions. I still use my sexuality occasionally but I am much more subtle about it.

And given the right cause, I think I would still be prepared to start a revolution (of sorts)...

It is five o’clock in the morning. And I am not in my bed.

I whisper “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim” over and over again. Then I turn the key in the engine.

And continue whispering “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim”. Jake asks me what I’m chanting. I reluctantly translate for him “In the name of Allah who is most gracious and merciful”.

I tell him it’s just a little something my mother taught me to say before a long drive. What I don’t tell him is that this is the first time I’ve ever said it. Or that this is the first time I will ever have driven on a motorway. And that is why I really need god to show me (and him) a bit of mercy.

Of course it would have made much more sense to start off with a little jaunt to Brighton. But that would have been far too sensible. And I am a person of extremes. So my foray into motorway driving is going to be a ten hour roundtrip from London to the Lake District.

I feel euphoric when I manage to get us (and the car) there in one piece. We have a full English breakfast before we begin our hike. I let Jake take the lead. Partly because he knows what he’s doing. But mainly because I like watching his pert bottom.

It’s hard going but I am enjoying every moment. It feels invigorating to have the wind in my face and fresh air in my lungs.

It is just the two of us surrounded by nothing except nature. And it feels incredibly cathartic. Although I do find the sheep a little disturbing; I don’t like the way they look at me.

My legs are absolutely aching by the time we reach the top. And the climb has clearly made me delirious because I find myself (involuntarily) bursting into song “There’s always gonna be another mountain, always gonna wanna make it move”.

Aside from the (embarrassing) fact that I am singing a Miley Cyrus song, I am tone deaf. But I don’t care. I never thought I could climb a mountain.

This is the second time today that I have challenged myself. And triumphed. I can’t help thinking that Jake is playing a part in that.

The wind is ferocious. I lay giggling with my arms and legs splayed on the tent trying to keep it down while Jake attempts to pitch it.

Our teamwork pays off. And it’s not long before I’m warming my hands on a hot mug of tea. Then I realise that I need to pee. Oh dear. I ask Jake not to look while I stick my bum out of the tent.

Then I turn around to see the bloody sheep staring at me. I get stage fright. My bum almost freezes off by the time I manage to pee.

I drink as little as possible for the rest of the night. There is absolutely no dignity in having a pee outside. And it’s bloody freezing. I put on another layer. Then Jake zips me into my sleeping bag.

The ground is uneven and very uncomfortable. I have never slept in a tent before. And I never will again. Jake falls asleep easily.

The wind is howling outside. The top of the tent is too close to my face. I am starting to feel claustrophobic. I unzip the bag and start frantically pulling my layers off.

I am finally dozing off when I feel something pushing hard against my leg. It must be Jake. I try to wriggle closer to him. Then I feel it again against my right shoulder. And realise that Jake is on my left. I scream at him to wake up.

He tries to calm me down by explaining that it’s just a sheep nudging the tent with its head. But I feel very vulnerable and exposed. It occurs to me that the tent is probably thinner than a shower curtain. And that makes me think of ‘Psycho’.

“But all kinds of rapists and murderers can just slash the tent and get in can’t they?” Jake tries to reassure me “Most people don’t climb a mountain to commit a crime”.

I concede that is a rational argument. And pretend that I’m feeling fine. Then I spend a sleepless night trying to avoid the sheep’s head. And the minority of rapists and murderers who get a sick kick out of climbing a mountain before committing their heinous crimes.

I am relieved when the sun comes up. And I can get the hell out of the tent. I have no make-up on. And my hair is a mess. But I am too cold to do anything about it. I sullenly refuse Jake’s offer of breakfast. And we make our descent in silence.

I warm up in the car. Then stop off at a service station for a caffeine fix. And to sort my face out. It’s amazing what a little bit of mascara and blusher can do. I feel much better as we hit the motorway again (with the music blaring to keep me awake).

“Bloody lorries, can you smell that rubber?” He can. Then he notices that people are pointing at our car as they drive past. He turns the music off. They are also tooting their horns. He winds his window down “I think that smell is coming from our car”.

Then the steering wheel suddenly veers to the left. “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim, Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim” I somehow manage to manouver the car across two lanes of traffic and on to the hard shoulder.

I would like to put that down to my awesome driving skills. But I think it was simply because everybody else on the road was giving me (and my burning tyre) a very wide berth.

We get out of the car. My legs almost give way when I see what is left of my shredded tyre. The RAC man turns up very quickly.

Apparently I was driving on a flat for some time. He changes the wheel. Then suggests I get the car realigned.

We have to complete our drive home in the slow lane. And it seems to take forever. I run a bath for us as soon as we get back. Then Jake lovingly massages my aching body until I feel wonderfully relaxed.

We managed to survive a night in a tent, my strop in the morning and a flaming tyre on the motorway. He is definitely a keeper. I fall asleep in his arms grateful for my nice warm bed.

Then I wake up in the middle of the night filled with anxiety. The RAC man said we had been very lucky. But what if we hadn't? What if I had died?

I have made a will so I have provided for Mia financially in the event of my death but not emotionally. There is so much I would want to tell her that would be left unsaid.

I tip toe out of the bedroom. And sit down at my computer.

My Darling Mia

I’m not really gone sweetheart. I would never leave you. It's only my body that isn’t there anymore. You can’t see me but I will never leave your side. You will feel me close by. My love for you will never die. Be strong but know that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes too.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from our family and friends. Talk to them about me, ask them any question you want, they will answer you honestly. I will only really die if you forget me.

Keep me alive in your memory and in your heart. Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way you want to. Know that you’ll come out the other side. Try not to go into yourself for too long. Let other people in. Try to talk to them about how you feel.

It’s ok to feel angry that you can’t see me anymore but try to understand that there is a reason for everything . And always remember that you are never alone.

Always be true to yourself and how you feel. Always remember that you have a choice. You are a bright beautiful star.

Don’t turn me into a saint. I wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Keep me real. Forgive me for any mistakes I made. Accept that they are part of life. But know that I always tried to learn from them.

Know that you were the best thing that ever happened to me. You made my life complete. I don’t know how long I had with you but I do know it won’t have been long enough.

Build your castles in the sky and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. Be happy. Don’t look back unless it’s to gain understanding. Always live in the present with one eye on the future. Never accept less than you know you deserve. And know that you deserve the best.

Never be afraid to say how you feel even if other people don’t like it. Never compare yourself to other people. You are you; a unique combination of strength, wisdom, beauty and compassion.

Never think that you have to fit a stereotype. You don’t have to be one thing or the other. Be everything that you know you are and don’t be afraid of contradictions.

Don’t worry about other people understanding you. Just understand yourself. Live your life with generosity of spirit, kindness and compassion for others. Above all, live! Know that you’re alive. Embrace everything life has to offer, the good and the bad.

Be honest, with yourself and others, however painful it may be sometimes. The truth will always free you. Trust me on that.

Look to others for guidance but always follow your own instincts and intuition and make the final decision for yourself. Consider others but always make the best decision for you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And don’t beat yourself up for them. Always try to turn a negative into a positive. Always be willing to learn and to grow. Don’t be dictated to by society’s ‘norms’ and restrictions; live your life the way you want to.

I know that whatever you choose to do I’ll be watching you with pride. Know that you could never disappoint me.

I love you.

Mummy xx

There is absolutely no point in asking them not to talk with their mouths full because they never stop talking. Or eating.

I watch (horrified) as bits of dolma shoot rapidly out of my mother’s constantly moving mouth. And hit me in the face at close range. I wipe them off. Then keep my head down in a bid to avoid getting any more of their food in my face.

I am sat at the kitchen table with my mother and two of her cronies. My head is starting to hurt. They only have one volume (high). And it is impossible to switch them off.

But I can switch off the Turkish radio. My mother turns it back on “Rṻṣtṻ likes it”. I point out that Rṻṣtṻ is a canary. She responds with “Yes, he is a canary who likes to listen to Turkish radio”.

It is at moments like this that I can’t decide whether she is a little eccentric or simply certifiable. I opt for eccentric (but only because we share the same genes).

They resume their gossiping “He had a heart attack and died when he realised that the woman he had fallen in love with was his long lost daughter”. I look up and narrowly avoid being hit in the eye by a small (chewed up) piece of lamb. I owe my fast reflexes to years of eating at this table.

“How awful, the poor man. How did that happen?” They respond simultaneously, happily shouting over each other. Then I realise that they are talking about one of their favourite soap operas. I should have known better but they talk about it all so emphatically that it is difficult not to get drawn in.

At least she hasn’t mentioned anything about finding a husband for me in Cyprus. I tune out and continue to eat my food in silence.

Then she slaps my leg to get my attention “I said Ayṣe tells me that you write some very funny things on the web net”. I almost choke on a potato. All three of them are staring silently at me. I try to buy some time “It’s called the internet”.

My mother purses her lips and crosses her arms “So what exactly is it that you write about on the internet?” I mumble something about “life you know, that kind of thing”. Shit. Shit. Shit. “And me? Do you write about me?” I assess how long I have to get to the door before she bends down for her slipper. I think I can make it.

I say “Sometimes” then try to make a run for it. She grabs hold of my arm “It’s ok. I’m not angry with you”. I sit back down reluctantly. She may just be lulling me into a false sense of security. I lean away from her (out of pinching range).

“I hear that your readers like me”. Then she smoothes her hair down “I suppose they’ll be wanting to see a photo of me soon won’t they?” The other two chime in excitedly “Write about us too!”

I’m going to kill Ayṣe. My other sister (Melek) has been reading the blog for months and hasn’t mentioned it to my parents once. Ayṣe has only been reading it for two weeks. And blabbed to them as soon as they got back from Cyprus. I really should have known that she would be the weakest link;

I was fourteen when the Guardian newspaper ran an article on the aspirations of students in deprived inner city schools. I told them I wanted to be a journalist. When they asked me what motivated me, I replied “I look into my mother’s eyes and see myself in thirty year’s time. And I don’t want that”.

I only realised how bad that sounded once it was published. Luckily my mother couldn’t read English. So I had just shown her the page with my photo on it. Then translated the article to her (omitting that particular line). She proudly showed it to everyone that came over. And they all had enough tact not to enlighten her. All except for Ayṣe.

I send her a text, I hope you didn’t tell mum that I wrote about the pigeon blood.

My mother brings out a bowl of loquats as soon as her little sidekicks leave “Eat them quickly. I only brought back enough yeni dunya for you”.

I thank her but tell her I am so full that I can hardly breathe. She retorts “Or did you only like them when you had been smoking hashish?” Fuck. Ayṣe must have told them about that too.

I have a flashback to a stoned sixteen year old me in a grocers in Bermondsey “Hey man, I’m looking for new worlds” I only knew them as ‘yeni dunya’. And the literal translation for that is ‘new world’. So I assumed that’s what they would be called in English.

I got really confused when he responded with “Yes love, aren’t we all but you’re not going to find anything other than fruit and veg here”.

My mother looks very pleased with herself, “Do you think we didn’t know that you did that shit?” I’m stunned into silence. Then my father wipes the smug look off her face “You didn’t know. I did.” Apparently he knows about red-eye. He winks at me “We had hashish in Cyprus too”.

And it wasn’t just red-eye that gave me away. He had watched me one day as I walked into my room carrying a handful of loquats and a glass of water. I had put the loquats carefully on the side. Then threw the glass of water on to the bed.

Then there was the time he saw me put a slice of bread in the fridge and wait for it to toast. He has a little smile playing on his lips “Would you like me to continue?” I am mortified.

My mother slaps me around the head “Eṣek” (donkey). And goes upstairs to pray. Every now and then she plays the part of a devout Muslim; praying five times a day. Then she claims that either her knees or her back hurts. And she stops. We all make bets on how long it’ll last; I tell my father I have a tenner riding on two weeks. He laughs.

Then he says “I only told your mother the story about the yeni dunya’s once Ayṣe said you had written about being stoned.” I ask him why he hadn’t told her at the time. He shakes his head “Can you imagine how she would have reacted? No, it was enough that I knew”.

I make the mistake of asking him what else he knew. A lot as it happens. He used to drop me off every week at my friends house. I would wave him off. And run into her house to get changed. Then go off to meet my boyfriend. I would get back around twenty minutes before he was due to pick me up.

Apparently he would arrive thirty minutes before and wait around the corner so he would always see me running back to her house. I cringe as I remember how I’d sit in the car chattering away about the board game we’d played or the homework we’d done. And he never gave any indication that he didn’t believe my version of events. Or that he knew about the tiny change of clothes in my bag.

My father may not be an educated man but he is a very wise one. I thought I was so smart pulling the wool over his eyes. But my father was much smarter. He tells me that he knows a lot more but he doesn’t think it serves any purpose to talk about it now.

I was a total wild child. And very self-destructive; I feel sick when I think of some of the things he might know. “If you knew so much, then why didn’t you disown me?” I know Turkish men of his generation who have disowned their daughters for a lot less.

He considers this for a moment “Because you would probably have ended up dead if I had let go of you” He has tears in his eyes “And I always knew you’d come good in the end”.

His hand is shaking as he lights a cigarette. He isn’t very good with emotion. And I am my father’s daughter. So I’m not sure what to do. I want to hug him but I know he doesn’t like that. I reach out for his hand “You’re right. Thank you for not letting go baba ”.

Then my mother walks in. And the moment is lost. She sits down next to me “I suppose you are writing as Kitty on the internet. Why don’t you use your real name?” I tell her that I hate people mispronouncing it. And it is impossible to know how Gṻlenay is pronounced unless you are familiar with Turkish (it is pronounced goo-len-eye).

It also doesn’t help that the literal translation of my name in English is Laughing Moon. Although that makes a bit more sense now I know that they had hashish in Cyprus.

My phone beeps with a message. It’s from Ayṣe, I did tell her about the pigeon blood. I told her everything. It’s all very funny!

I apologise to my mother “I’m sorry I wrote about you not being a virgin when you got married”. She shrugs her shoulders “It’s ok. I told the whole family so why shouldn’t you tell the whole world?” tell her that my blog really isn’t that popular.

Then she says “Ayṣe tells me you write really well. Is this what you want to do with your life now? Write?” I tell her it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And that I only became a lawyer to make them proud. She smiles “In that case, you have my permission to write whatever you like about me.” Then she pulls me in for a big hug and almost suffocates me with her ample bosom.

I smile (despite struggling to breathe) because I know how lucky I am to have parents who love me to death.

I have been dreading this moment ever since Jake and I got together.

Joanna hasn’t seen me yet. I could just walk back out. But I will only be delaying the inevitable so I say a breezy “Hello”. And brace myself.

She is distinctly frosty towards me as we half-heartedly exchange pleasantries. My discomfort is intensified by the fact that she is naked. I don’t know where to look. So I concentrate on maintaining eye contact. But this is a little difficult when she keeps bending down to rub moisturiser onto her legs.

Then curiosity gets the better of me. And my eyes fall to her breasts before moving slowly across her stomach and thighs. It is not often I get the opportunity to compare my body against that of a real woman instead of an airbrushed version.

And her body is pretty impressive so I have to look longer and harder for flaws. Then she suddenly blurts out “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Damn. She caught me. My cheeks are burning with embarrassment.

“Seriously, what is a woman like you doing with my brother?
”Excuse me? “A woman like me? What is that supposed to mean?” 
She responds with “You honestly don’t know?”

A wave of panic rushes through my body. And makes its way out of my mouth “if-you-think-I’m-into-women-just-because-I-was-checking-out-your-body-then-you-are-wrong-trust-me-I-wasn’t-getting-any-pleasure-out-of-looking-at-your-body-not-that-you-haven’t-got-a-nice-body-but-I-was-only-looking-to-see-if-you-had-any-cellulite-or-stretchmarks-or-flabby-bits-not-that-you-have-well-actually-you-do-have-some-cellulite-but-hey-haven’t-we-all?”

Then my brain catches up. And it suddenly hits me “Oh. That was a reference to my age and not my sexuality wasn’t it?” Correct. And now she is being really hostile because I mentioned her cellulite “You’re far too old for him”

I point out that he has the manner of someone much older. Then remind her that she had the opportunity to tell me how young he was before I agreed to go out with him. But she didn’t take it. Then I surprise myself by adding “And I’m glad you didn’t because I may have missed out on something very special”.

She responds with “Oh yes, I’m sure the sex is very special” I ignore her sarcasm. And manage to keep my cool while she has a little rant at me. Then she calls me a ‘cougar’.

I explain (through gritted teeth) that cougars are women who deliberately prey on younger men. I thought Jake was older. In fact the only thing that I would change about him would be his age.

And I didn’t prey on him. “Therefore, by definition, I am most certainly not a bloody cougar”. I take my boxing gloves out of my bag. And slam the locker shut. Then I storm out of the changing room.

I go into the gym. And pummel the punch bag until my arms ache and I can’t see through my sweat. I don’t think I have quite come to terms with how our relationship is going to be perceived by others. And there won’t always be a punch bag in the near vicinity. So I really must find a way to deal with it that doesn’t involve violence.

My hands are still shaky when I get home. And what I am attempting to do requires both precision and a steady hand.

I empty the shampoo out of the bottle. Then I carefully fill it with head lice treatment. I’m putting the lid back on when I identify a flaw in my carefully thought out plan; the treatment won’t lather the way shampoo does.

Then it occurs to me that conditioner doesn’t lather either. So I empty the conditioner out of the bottle. And transfer the head lice treatment into that. Then I (strategically) place candles around the bathroom away from anything that is likely to go up in flames.

I have just finished when the doorbell rings. I open the door and leap into Jake’s arms (being very careful to avoid our heads touching). It is some time before we make it from the hallway into the living room. There is absolutely no denying the physical attraction between us. But Joanna is wrong; it is much more than just that otherwise it wouldn’t be so intense.

Then the phone rings. I can’t ignore it just in case it’s Mia. It isn’t. It’s my mother. She is on her way back from the airport and wants to pick up her bag.

I ask if it can wait until tomorrow. She gets annoyed “You said to call before I came over and I’m calling so what is the problem now?” The problem is that she is calling when she is only five minutes away.

I apologise to Jake. And ask him if he can wait in the bedroom until I get rid of her. I acknowledge that hiding him from my family is becoming a recurring theme; first Mia and now my mother. But I am doing this for his own good.

Jake reminds me that his mother is Spanish “so I am used to the Mediterranean....” He pauses before diplomatically concluding his sentence with “temperament”.

I quickly pull the clothes out of the top of the wardrobe until I get to the bag and yank it down. But I didn’t zip it up properly after I took my grandmother’s necklace out. And bundles of cash start flying out all over the floor. Shit. How dodgy does that look?

Then the doorbell rings. Jake helps me put all the money back in the bag “Don’t tell me, it’s their life savings and they don’t trust banks?” I nod. He understands their madness. And that makes him even more desirable.

I run to the door. My mother gives me a big hug “Why are you out of breath?” I hand her the bag. And tell her not to keep my father waiting. She eyes me suspiciously as she walks off.

I wait until the car disappears. Then let Jake out of the bedroom. I try not to wince when he scratches his head.

It’s time to put my master plan into action; I suggest we take a bath together. He says he had a shower before he came over. Oh dear. He thinks I am suggesting he needs a wash.

I explain that I am not questioning his personal hygiene standards “In fact, I think they are exemplary. I just think that it would be really sensual. And I would love you to lather my body”. He says that a bath sounds like a fabulous idea.

I light the candles, put the champagne in the ice bucket and scatter rose petals into the bath. I take Jake’s clothes off. Then mine. And lead him into the bathroom. It is all so romantic that I almost forget my ulterior motive.

We sink into the warm water with rose petals floating around us. The candle light and soft music heighten the sense of fantasy. I wrap my legs around him. Then I have to break the spell. And tell him that I’m going to give him a head massage with a deep conditioning treatment.

I massage the treatment in. He wrinkles his nose. I hold my breath. But he is too polite to mention the strong smell. Now I have to distract him for at least ten minutes to allow the treatment to work. So I massage his neck and shoulders.

Then I start kissing him. And the water is cold by the time I stop. I am rinsing his hair when the most absurd thought occurs to me; I think I am falling in love with him.

But I can’t be. This is only our third date. And I really don’t know him that well yet. I must be mistaking lust for love. That is much more logical.

No. Fuck logic. I’ll go with emotion. I am falling in love with him. Full stop. No justification. No logic. Wow. I’m making progress. Jake is obviously good for me.

We spend another incredible evening together. Then I find myself agreeing to go hiking with him next weekend. I don’t really ‘do’ the outdoors. I’m very much a city girl. And it isn’t exactly romantic.

But he asked me while I was drifting off towards a delicious sleep with his beautiful body wrapped around mine. And I would have agreed to absolutely anything at that moment in time.

I make a mental note not to commit to anything else unless we are both fully dressed. And I can’t see that happening for a while...