In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people. Picture: University of Ulster
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My Irish lover thought sex the ultimate sin. I like that in a man

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

I must say that I find most contemporary dating advice completely mystifying. Dating is something Americans do, as far as I’m concerned. English people get drunk and have inappropriate sex. Ditto, engagement. What the hell is it? Are women public toilets that are either vacant or engaged? Clearly I have not a clue.

When I hear people say that their relationships are going nowhere, I do wonder what the final destination is. It’s probably having the sort of deranged problems that people write to Pamela Stephenson Connolly about in the Guardian: “I can’t orgasm with my husband, whom I have never found attractive in any way WHATSOEVER.”

Everyone should relax about “relationships” that don’t go anywhere – that are not goal-orientated. Yet even such casual arrangements can become fraught with unforeseen complications. I should know.

I had one such arrangement when I first lived in London, with an Irish fellow I’d see once a week. Let’s call him John, as that was his name. We met in a pub, of course. It was all very passionate, as he thought that sex was the ultimate sin, some sort of desecration that caused him paroxysms of guilt. I like that in a man.

The Sinn Fein paper An Phoblacht was lying round his flat. In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people.

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

“Keep your mouth shut,” he said. I sat there terrified, nursing a drink, while he went in a huddle. It was apparent that my English accent was never to be heard.

We continued seeing each other weekly and I would always get up before him and leave. Who knew what his job was? He had probably told me. I probably hadn’t listened.

One morning, he had to get up to go out very early. “Wake up. I can’t leave you here alone,” he said.

I pretended to be sleepy and refused to move. He was very annoyed.

As I heard the door slam, I leaped out of bed and searched the flat. Every bit of it. And there it all was. Several different passports. Other forms of ID and diaries, each written in different handwriting. Whole identities bundled away in plastic bags. Some of it had his picture on. Some didn’t.

I put everything back and left. As I pondered all of his other lives and what he did with them, I realised that it would not be wise to end it there.

So I met him the following week for a drink as usual.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve met someone else. We can’t go on like this any more, John.” I was telling the truth. For we both knew as I said it that John was not even his actual name.

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.