Heartbreak is a curable condition. And remember that your ex is only your ex because he’s wrong for you otherwise you’d still be together, right? But it’s not easy getting over someone, ‘ I went on, thinking of Ed with a vicious stab. ‘So you need a strategy to help you recover. Now were there things about him you didn’t like?’ ‘Oh yeah!’ she exclaimed. ‘Loads!’ ‘Good. Then make a list of them, and when you’ve done it, ring your friends and read it to them, then ask them if you’ve left anything out. Get them to add their own negative comments, and ask your family as well. Then ask your next-door neighbours—on both sides—plus the people in the corner shop, then post the list up in a prominent place. Secondly, get off your bum! Get down to the gym, like I did, and take up kick-boxing or Tae-Bo. Kick the shit out of your instructor, Fran— believe me it’ll lift your mood. Because it’s only when you’re feeling happy and confident again, that the right man will come along. ‘

True, Henry had never really lit my fire. He was the human equivalent of a lava lamp—very attractive but not that bright.

‘Thanks. That’d be nice. So where do you do your… star-watching?’ I asked as he got down twoglasses.’The best place is Norfolk—I used to go there with my grandparents. You can do it in London, but you have to choose your spot carefully because the sky-glow’s so bad. ‘ ‘The sky-glow?’ ‘The light pollution. That awful tangerine glare. I’m involved with the Campaign for Dark Skies, ‘ he went on as he poured out my beer. ‘We ask local councils to install star-friendly street lighting which throws the light down, where it’s needed, not up. It’s tragic that people living in cities don’t get to see the night sky—they miss so much. I mean just look up, ‘ he said suddenly. He switched off the light, plunging us into darkness, and I peered up through the conservatory roof. Through the glass I could see five, no… eight stars twinkling dimly against the inky night and a sliver of silvery moon. ‘City folk miss so much, ‘ he repeated as I craned my neck. ‘How often do they see the Milky Way and the Pleiades, Orion’s belt, or the Plough? You don’t even need a telescope to be an amateur astronomer. You can see so much just with your eyes. ‘

‘She felt I was letting her down. She’s a solicitor at Prenderville White in the city, ‘ he explained. ‘She’s very driven and successful, and she expected me to be the same. She wanted me to put everything into my accountancy career to match her success, but I couldn’t. I did all the exams but by then I’d become far more interested in astronomy than in spreadsheets. So I left Price Waterhouse and took an undemanding book-keeping job so that I’d have more time to write my book. Fi said I was being self-indulgent and that I should knuckle down to my career. She kept on and on and on about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back. So five months ago she said she wanted out. ‘ Poor bloke. There were tears in his eyes.

Everyone thinks I’m so brave, ‘ she sobbed, her face red and twisted with grief. ‘Brave Bev. Battling Bev. But I’m not like that inside. I’m not like that at all. Don’t tell anyone this, ‘ she confided with a teary gasp, ‘but I get so upset sometimes. ‘ ‘Do you?’ I said. ‘Yes, ‘ she murmured with a sniff. ‘I do. But I can’t help it because I know I’ll never—uh-uh—walk, or run again: I’ve got to sit down for the rest of my life. And I tell people that I’ve— uh-uh—got over it—but the truth is I haven’t and I never will!’ I thought again of the suppressed sobbing I’d heard through the wall and of the hockey sticks she’d burned on the fire. ‘And all these paintings of these lovely—uh-uh—women with their— uh-uh—lovely, perfect, strong legs… ‘ Bev I know you’ll be… ‘—my throat ached: I find crying catching—’I know you’ll be fine. ‘ Her sobs subsided, and she looked up and wiped her eyes. ‘Yes, ‘ she croaked. ‘Maybe I will. I’m sorry, ‘ she said, ‘I know things could be worse. The way I hit the ground I’m lucky not to be a tetraplegic, or dead. Perhaps I should go to the ball as a still life, ‘ she added with a bleak smile. ‘I mean, there is still life. ‘

I have agony aunted myself to the conclusion that although I behaved very badly I can’t put the clock back so I might as well try and forget. In any case I’m very good at not thinking about unpleasant things. I shut them away in my mind. I neatly compartmentalise them and lock the door: a skill which I learned as a child. So I’m not going to dwell on my humiliation: it’s over: what’s done is done. In any case some good things have come out of that evening and so, despite everything, I’m still very glad that I went.

There was a card from Pyschic Cynthia with my astrological chart for the coming year. Thanks to ‘generous Jupiter’ I could look forward to ‘stunning changes ahead. ‘ I don’t want any more stunning changes, I thought, I’ve had more than enough this year. I’d moved house twice and my marriage had failed. I needed only a death to complete the hat trick of traumatic life events.