Wednesday, 18 January 2012


'You'll have to leave that behind the desk, sir,' said the security guard.

Reluctantly, I removed my sword and passed it across the counter.

'And that ..'

My shield, too? I sighed as it went the same way.

'Right, sir; night school, is it?  Sign in here.'

With a flourish, I withdrew a quill from my rucksack. The guard shook his head and, with his eyes, directed me to a pen attached by wire to the counter.

'What class are you doing, sir?' The impertinence of the man; I ignored him.

'Sir,' he went on. 'I can't direct you to your classroom unless I know what you're studying.'

He was beginning to stretch my patience.

'Chivalry, swordsmanship, jousting ... you know, the usual.' I replied.

'Are you on something, sir?'

'Of course; he's tethered outside. Can you water him?'

'I'm going to have to ask you to leave, sir.'

'Look, just direct me to knight school, you rude little man.'

'What subject?'

'Knight school. KNIGHT SCHOOL! What don't you understand?'

'Oh!' he said. 'Ker-night school. Why didn't you say so? Room 304 - third floor. That's the class for you.'

He pointed to his list. It read 'Spelling: Room 304'.


'Yes, sir.' Something clearly amused him.

'I want to be a knight, not a bloody wizard!' I retorted. 

He could see he'd pushed me too far, but it was too late. I pulled him across the counter by his tie and in one swift movement withdrew the dagger from my left boot. I pressed the point into his throat, just enough to break his leathery skin.

I became aware of a group of three or four rowdy men behind me, pushing and shoving each other.

'Problem, Eric?' one of them said.

I twisted the knife slightly. A drop of crimson fell onto Eric's collar.

'No, sir; I'm fine.'

The man who'd spoken consulted the room list with his index finger.

'Piracy: Room 216, lads.'

He placed a cutlass on the counter.

'Keep an eye on her for me, Eric.'

'Will do, sir.' 

Friday, 13 January 2012


The unpleasantness all started when I was about 13 - the periods, yes, but worse than that, the fat - fat accumulating everywhere: hips, chest, upper arms, chin, bum, secret places.

Mum and Aunt Jo said it was just 'puppy fat', but the puppy grew up into an even fatter dog.  Puberty coincided with the end of my sporting career; there's no way I was going to charge around a hockey pitch in a short skirt with those hideous thighs scraping on the floor. I suppose this is what they mean when they say something's a vicious circle or a Catch 22. Well, I was too obese to catch a 22 or any other bus, so I gave up the fight. When you're too embarrassed to go out in case people shout 'lard-arse' at you, what is there left to do but comfort eat?  I knew something was wrong when Mum stopped waking me up for Church on Sundays and stopped worrying about Gran turning in her grave about my Godlessness.

All I could see ahead for myself was a heart attack at 25 and a JCB being brought in to get me out of the house, so I decided to make the break, go to college as far away as possible (Plymouth as it happened), sort myself out and return as a normal young woman. I arrived here in Devon in September 2010 to do a BA in Psychology, and  I haven't been back home to Darlington since. I invented a summer job so I wouldn't have to go home last year, and an imaginary pile of essays for the other holidays.

Every calorie that's passed my lips since I became an undergraduate has been counted; I've cycled, run and rowed myself halfway around the world on my gym equipment, and yet looking in the mirror, nothing's changed. One of these days, a Japanese ship is going to harpoon me, and that will be it.

Jan 1st 2012. Resolution Day. It's time to make the call.

The phone is picked up on the second ring while I'm still rehearsing my speech.



'Karen - is that you?'

'Yes, mum.'

'We thought you were dead - you haven't called for three months, you don't return my calls. Anyone would think ...'


'What is it, dear?'

'I'm anorexic. Please help me.'