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I Blame the Gin

1 Minute Read

A number of years ago, in my mid 40s, I fell madly, wildly, secretly, unrequitedly, sexually in love with someone half my age. I was stunned. I felt like David Byrne had taken residence in my head, dancing around singing, 'How did I get here?' My body was on fire. I was obsessed and had to work my way through it in small, insignificant steps. It was one of the most powerfully sexual, non-sexual, experiences of my life and it reminded me how much of a sexual being I am. How important sex has always been to me as a physical, emotional and spiritual act.

There were hideous days of sitting in the British Library trying to research my thesis (since abandoned) and being overwhelmed with words, poetry, prose; anything but the intellectual analysis I had signed up to deliver. I was earning my living as the Creative Director of a participative theatre, art and media charity which I had set up to create projects with and for communities. I had long been interested in Boal's 'Forum Theatre' and I put together projects that I hoped would give children and adults opportunities to express themselves through the arts. The projects I loved and was proudest of were those where audience/participants developed new skills, confidence or created something unexpected. I sometimes worked with actors, taking shows into communities or schools, using forum techniques to start discussions and have audiences perform their ‘solutions’ to problems. My thesis was on developing criteria to evaluate participative arts, looking particularly at ‘The aesthetics of participation’.

AITN9556 In my spare time, I worked as site-specific and participative artist.   I had come from a performance background, but had long given up being a jobbing actor. I had considered that part of my life over. However, this new energy, this sexual energy, was so overwhelming strong, that it could only be played out in particular ways. I could either give myself over to it, pursuing the object of my desire, or I could attempt to temper my, by now almost impossibly urgent, feelings and rein my passions in through art. I chose the latter, starting a poetry blog and finding building that into a site-specific performance called “TIME=MONEY” a 1-2-1 intimate poetry performance which I took to the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2013, winning a 'WINDOW' award as a promising company. It was just me and an audience member, separated by a thin mosquito net, in a bespoke venue that we erected ourselves. My partner in the project, Immo Horn, acted as 'front of house' ushering people in and out. The performances were intense, direct and, I am told, weirdly sexy.

In the 2 years since that performance, I have moved on. My new show is called 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, More: LOVE!' I’ve gone from being separated from the audience by a mosquito net and speaking to them only in poetry, to doing a full facilitated 60min show, as myself, using my own name and singing, dancing and telling stories about my dating disasters.

The show is about learning to date again in your 50s. I turned 50 last year and slowly began to realise that the promised ‘post-menopausel disinterest in sex’ was not going to happen for me. In fact, it hasn’t happen to a lot of my friends either, many of whom are reporting the best sex with new partners who take the act of pleasuring their partners seriously. On the rare occasions I have had sex, it has been explosive. Intimate, connected, mind-blowingly great. Unfortunately, on all occasions, the people involved where unsuitable for long term partnerships. The last two, separated by months and months and months, were friends. One an ex-lover from my twenties. The other an acquaintance going through a protracted separation. The former was a gift, the latter sent me around the twist. I had known he was damaged. I had been speaking to him earlier in the night we hooked about opening his heart again. I was not planning on seducing him. I blame The Gin.HipstamaticPhoto-474668570.443658

I have also, despite an absolute aversion to dating, joined a dating site. To my frustration and amusement, I have had, sadly, to self-declare as a “dating disaster”. The person I was when I last dated no longer exists. The mechanisms for dating (meet in bar/club/through friends/shag/see if it works) no longer satisfy. There's a whole new world out there of dating apps and dating sites. Dating sites have been around since the 90's, so although it is not new, the 'dial up/swipe right/booty call' culture is. It is everything a sex loving, liberated woman like me should want. Yet, I am finding it difficult. I want my sex with integrity, but was completely put off when attending some Osho type workshop. All the men just looked like they wanted to stick their dicks into anything. Quite frankly, I thought I could have more fun at Joe's Bar in Camden on a Sat night. Picking up men in bars is and always has been frighteningly easily. You almost don't need to do much more that exist. I wanted to find a new way of meeting people that wasn’t just pure, blind, chemistry. I’d tried that. I’ve had a few long relationships, married, separated. I am still very close to my ex, emotionally and intellectually, though not sexually. We work together. I still love him in a filial and emotional way that means I don't want to consider the normal heterosexist trajectory of basically destroying all aspects of one's life and partnership together simply because one is no longer fucking. So, I am trying to see what it will be like to identify as polyamorous, though strictly I am not, as polyamoury normally means that you are having multiple relationships which are both sexual and emotional. However, right now, it feels like the best description that I have to go on.

It suits me better than 'ethical non-monogamy'; no-one is asking me to be non-monogamous. I have always wondered if I could. I have always run into problems in relationships as one or the other of us wants to explore other relationships, but because we have been locked in monogamy, this has happened furtively, secretly and caused so much damage when the truth has outed. So for many years, I have tried to be another way in my relationship. I have given this sexual and emotional fidelity business as good a shot as I have been capable of. It hasn't worked out very well for me.

I'm 51 yrs old now. I feel I have to try and create the relationships I want, right from the start. I don't want to be told that I can't enjoy the deep emotional intimacy I have with my ex, that somehow that part of my relationship will become irrelevant if (when!) I start seeing someone else. I don't want to be involved in anyone else's lies either. I don't want to be part of someone else's 'dirty secret' or their 'shame'. I don't want to be that person who breaks someone else heart when they find out about me. I want to see what happens if we try loosening things up and become more honest and true with each other. How much kindness and compassion can we throw at ourselves? At those we don't know? At our lovers?

FOTZ0636When I started working on the show, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More: LOVE!” I had no idea how personal the content was going to be. I imagined that I could work as a 'facilitator' in the process, and keep parts of myself private and hidden away. During the course of developing the work though, stuff has happened. I've broken some of my own rules, I have car-crashed my own learning process. This is by far the most honest, open, warts and all, work I have ever done. While the poetry was showing my soul in a deeply intimate, sexy way, this show is much more honest. I don’t have a character to hide behind. I’m revealing things about myself I thought I would never disclose publicly.

As we are getting closer to the show opening, I am beginning to feel a real nervousness. Some of the content is just so private. Should it just stay that way? Why am I engaging in this 'emotional exhibitionism'? On the other hand, as the show uses live-chat, I am hoping that sharing some of my dating disaster history will free people up to share theirs. It is enormously exciting to me to have created a show where audiences can contribute if they choose. Since I have started the project, people have been disclosing the most intimate details of their dating lives to me. A lot of the stories are really funny. Or at least, they become funny once they are shared. Even if audiences don’t join the live chat, they can still participate in the singing, the dancing as they see me skating close to the thin edge of self-exploitation. How far can I go? Have I gone too far? In my personal life, I think I haven't gone far enough. I have a rule book. It’s been updated in light of recent events. It goes like this:

The Rule Book

  • No one I work with. See reasons 2 and 3. I work in the arts. Often with gorgeous young people, who become my friends.
  • No friends who have not been your lover before. When it goes wrong, the whole friendship group is affected. In our 50's – this is bad news. You can sleep with old lovers though. Just because you can. They feel familiar and safe and you know, if they are still around, it's because you've had something real going on
  • No one under 35. Just no. Not because they are unattractive. But just no. I can't bear the whole 'Cougar' thing. I detest being seen as a label.   If I meet someone under 35's who I think I can make a relationship work with, I might. But not as an 'experience'.
  • No one cheating on their partners. I'm done with dishonesty. Starting to date and starting to date people who are openly polyamorous has opened up the discussions with my ex about sex. I wish we had had these discussions years ago. It may have saved our relationship.

The Rule Book is no less coercive for being invisible. Last weekend, I went to a friend's party. I didn't know anyone there but her. I walked in and she said, 'You are dressed quite tamely for you!', and I was. A shin length, full skirted black dress. I thought I would have one drink and then go. Then I started dancing. Sometime in, there was this lovely young man dancing just around the edge of my space. Very unobtrusive. I asked him to dance with me. He said he had been waiting for me to ask. He was the most fantastic dancer. I am notoriously uncooperative at either following or leading at swing or blues or salsa. For some reason, it just worked between us. As I swirled, my dull black dress fell in waves about me and I became caught up in the magic and romance of the dance. I kept telling myself, 'It’s just dancing.' One woman came up to us and said, 'The two of you look amazing dancing together.'   He was both damned good and responsive; the leading and following fell naturally to and fro between us. I couldn't help imagining how wonderful it would be to slip my fingers underneath his shirt. However, I had noticed the ring on his finger. I reckoned, at his age, the reason his wife wasn't there was because she was at home, maybe looking after the children.   I suspected he danced pretty well with her too. This could go no further. So, shortly before midnight, I said my goodbyes and took my leave before either of us did anything we could regret. I'm not saying he would have; I'm saying, I could have. The next day I really wondered about this. Why not just give myself a bit more license? Why so cautious and conservative? I can't say that I have come up with any plausible reason why it is so. It is just what my soul needs right now.

So. I'm still out there looking. Looking for what? I don't know. I guess I'll know when I find it. Or maybe I won't. In the meantime, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More: LOVE!”, an intimate, audience-collaborative show exploring themes of lust, love and dating with your clothes on opens May 6th in Brighton and on Sat 7th May we are having a party right after the show. Further showings on 27th, 28th and the 29th May. You can purchase tickets here. Or contact us on FB, gggmorelove, and join the conversation. I am going to need all the help I can refining and updating my rules.

© Debra Watson 2016

Debra Watson is a poet, performer, facilitator and director.

Photos Credit: Susanne Ballhausen

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places: Episode 2

1 Minute Read

Placing a personals ad on Craigslist was always going to be a crapshoot. I knew that. I’d done it before, albeit in my forties, and it had led to some interesting as well as deeply unsatisfying experiences . It had turned up a few guys, for instance, who wanted to take part in a gang-bang in a swanky hotel room. I think they had not expected it to actually happen and I remember one guy, a notch above 30, who got carried away, saying “Suck that, bitch” as if he was the lead in a porn film. I had to tell him, in my very best Mary Poppin’s voice, to “be very quiet.” There was another man who took me to a lovely dinner at the Soho House Hotel and turned out to have a wandering eye, literally. He had one eye that just kept zooming off, in all directions. It was very disconcerting.

The first few emails I received in response to my latest ad were not terribly encouraging. There were two or three from men who had obviously not read my ad asking for someone my own age and were chancing it. One, a mere 27, sent me a picture of his lean, headless torso, just stopping at his unbranded underwear.

Craigslist Boy

There was another who spelled out something completely unintelligible using text message speak, always a worrying sign:

hi i saw ur ad on cl,,,i live in kilburn station jubile line,,183cm tall slim,43 years old. xxxxxxxx u can cal or find me on whatsapp

There was the man who was intrigued by my beauty, having not yet seen my picture and was a strong believer in quantum physics. Quite a few lived very far outside London, even though I had made it clear I was not a woman who wanted to travel far.

Frank (not his real name) was perplexed as to what I meant by ‘having tried swiping right and left.’ When I wrote back and said it referred to Tinder, he replied saying, “… it does frighten me a bit when I hear that a woman has been trawling places like Tinder.…I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was sleeping with someone who was having multiple sex partners.” This being craigslist, a place frequented by men seeking sex for hire, I think the irony must have been lost on him. I, on the other hand, had not been laid in six months.

And then there was an older man, a philanthropist and former CEO, who invited me to his private member’s club for dinner, only to tell me 30 emails later, that he was married. Why he couldn't have made that clear to me 29 emails earlier, is anyone's guess. I had just about forgotten how many time wasters there are in online dating land when he dropped into my life to remind me.

Amongst the debris, however, a few possible gold nuggets have stood out. The banker, for example. At 42 still a bit too young, but within walking distance, handsome and someone with whom I might unwind over a drink nearby. He has potential.

A designer with his own small agency who likes jazz and lives in North London, on a tube line just on the edge of Zones 2/3 , seems interesting too.

A couple of dates have been put in the diary and I’m open to the possibilities. Watch this space.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

3 Minute Read

Since hitting the menopause, my libido may have done a runner but my desire for love and companionship most certainly had not. Finally an empty nester, I decided it was time I looked for someone with whom I could share life's experiences, knowing that finding such a person could take some time.

A good friend of mine runs a small fashion label selling unusual embroidered skirts that she operates from a market stall in Camden Town. It’s the tatty end of the High Street, just down the road from Camden Town tube where stalls selling knock-off t-shirts with slogans like ‘My Girlfriend Went to London and all I Got was this Shitty T-shirt’ sit side by side next to fake Doc Martens and Goth dresses. My friend’s designer skirts stand out by a mile. It's no surprise she makes a comfortable living from them. With their distinctive, yet subtle patterns of birds on a telegraph wire or colourful polo mints against a pitch-black background, they're like orchids in amongst a sea of brambles.

It was with this sentiment in mind that I decided that my search for love should start in the place in which one would least expect to find me, Craigslist. For those unfamiliar with Craigslist, it’s the place to go if you’re hoping to find someone up for a lunchtime, zipless fuck or a ‘sensual’ massage. Not wishing for either, I figured I stood half a chance of bagging Mr. Right or Mr. Just-Right-for-Now if they happened to be browsing, for fun, as I sometimes did. I'd tried Tinder and been disappointed. Sure, I'd had more than a few matches but mostly I could never seem to get past Tinder chat to Whats App and then to Real Life. Guardian Soulmates seemed so, well, expensive and a bit desperate. Friends I knew who had tried it all complained of there being far too many opinionated vegans. I'm a girl who appreciates a good steak. Craigslist had always appealed to me for its randomness. I'd used the site successfully in the past to find web designers, interior designers, white van men and, yes, once upon a time, a few free lunches too (with and without the sex). My philosophy on life being, 'You don't know until you've tried,' I submitted my free ad:

"Dynamic, Attractive, 55-year-old seeking Male Romantic Companion"

"Swiping right and left has turned out to be a massive waste of time and, as a woman with not much time to spare, I am hoping this place might prove to be more efficient when it comes to finding a match."

"I am a busy, happy, healthy woman who has lived a very full life and now finally an empty nester. Hurrah! I have a good sense of humour (even briefly, at one point, attempting to be a stand-up comedian), a positive outlook on life and am seeking a man, my own age, which also enjoys life and would like someone with whom to share it."

"I enjoy the usual pursuits, eating out, cinema, theatre, museums and galleries and I am particularly fond of jazz."

"When it comes to my taste in men, all the men with whom I have been close have been slim and dark haired, ranging in height from 5’9” – 6’4”. So I guess you could say this is my ‘type.’ In my ideal world, I imagine being with someone older, wiser and maybe even retired who views my hectic life and entrepreneurial spirit as charming, rather than threatening."

"Please do not send me pictures of your penis or about how you fantasize about being with an older woman. I have had my share of both and as I’m sure you are writing to me in the hope of a response, you would end up very disappointed."

"Your photo will receive mine in return. Go on, make my day."


My mid-life, Craigslist dating adventure has begun. Watch this space for the next episode.

How the Hell Did I Get Into a Committed Relationship at 60…

9 Minute Read

‘In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me, there lay an invincible summer.’ Albert Camus

I’d had some crazy times. At 43, I split with my long-term partner and headed straight into a number of relational car crashes.

In my mid to late 40s, there’d been the psychotherapist who drank dangerously; he’d make phone calls from telephone boxes declaring that he was yearning for me, and I’d do dreadful journeys up and down to Slough in order to participate in wild nights of bacchanalian sex. Yes, Slough! My ex looked after my nine year old son on these occasions. Poor boy would ask me if the lights were on when I got back. And they definitely were not.

Then even worse was the charismatic alcoholic entrepreneur who would ring to inform me that he’d been on a five day bender and was literally eating the carpet. Off I’d pop to help out. Nurse Rose to the rescue. Incredibly, I convinced myself that this was an adventure. Sorry Marlon. This gentleman also professed that he was a tantric master. That was not my lived experience.

Of course, there were heady moments in both those relationships. There were melting kisses in the moonlight, exciting ideas exchanged on summer evenings, our own absurd performances of Hamlet in Holland Park and the sometimes ecstatic, often painful dance of push and pull. And not a hint of a committed relationship on the horizon.

What was interesting – was not the blaming and judging of these men – but rather why I was insistently making these choices. Where did my compulsion to be with unavailable men come from? It took a few years more for me to look at my own unavailability.

During the one year Courage To Change group therapy course with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern, I learned how difficult it was to show my vulnerability to others. I also practised diversionary tactics by having a relationship with a younger male participant. The high drama of this relationship – at the time, he’d started something with another woman in the group – allowed me to sidestep any underlying grief/pain of my own. Instead, we had our very own soap opera. This man was a delight and we did manage to meet on Planet Playful, which was idyllic for all too-brief-a-time.

In my early 50s, my relationship life plunged to an all-time low. Somehow I allowed myself to ‘fall in love’ with a former neighbour who not capable – there was deep trauma in his past – of the kind of intimacy that I longed for. It became a dark, persistent secret that was shameful to me. I told no-one how far I’d descended. In fact, I have him to thank for eventually stopping all contact between us. That was the only way.

The workshop years followed. I’d already done the Hoffman Process, which made me aware of those behavioural patterns learned from my parents and became the ideal place to forgive them. I did the New Year’s workshop Passion, Power and Love with tantra teacher, Jan Day. It was restorative, fun and flirtatious. For the first time in months, I inhabited myself in that richly embroidered fashion which made me feel excited. At Easter, I did Jan’s seven day Living Tantra 1, which was all about sexual healing. It was a blast. Challenging and nurturing in equal measure. There was a lot of boundary work – learning when to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ basically when it came to loving touch. There were extraordinary moments of letting go in dance, in grief, in anger, and in pleasure shared with others. We were a community of emotional explorers and it felt like a healthy place to dwell for a while.

Funnily enough, I was expecting to meet a man, ‘the man’ on these workshops; but instead I met a woman. Not in a pansexual way, but in a loving, intimate way. I found a new woman friend, Jayne, that I could share my deeply hidden and shameful sides with. Without fear of recrimination and judgement. That was such an immense liberation, and continues to be. At last I could breathe freely without having to put myself into a socialised repressed straight jacket. The act of sharing my darker nooks and crannies with her was/is a gift that opens my heart every time. My fragility was/is my strength. I still have to remind myself. I’d much rather be seen as warrior woman.

And I faced into what drove me to make those sorts of choices in men. I acknowledged my own complex relationship with my father. I understood that I was unavailable on an intimate level because I was still trying to rescue him from his depression and therefore ignoring my own needs. I wept and screamed like a banshee. It didn’t help me find a partner but it did help me feel more relaxed in my own skin.

A women’s group – the Wild Women – came next. Lots of emotional sharing, too much drinking and not enough boundaries meant an intense experience every time but it was inevitably short-lived. Another more structured one – simply called the Women’s Group – has lasted six years. It is a safe place where I can collapse in tears, where I can ask to be hugged and stroked, where I can show sides of myself that I do not show anywhere else. It’s a safe container to allow the depths of winter emotionally without a need to feel that the invincible summer has to come. It’s a sigh of relief.

And then there was the simple contentment and the positive aliveness of being alone. Okay, my son was still around but there wasn’t a man around. I began to realise that I relished this state. I could spend time reading and writing poetry. I started the four year project where I had walking adventures around Harlesden which eventually turned into the book, A London Safari: walking adventures in NW10. I danced 5 Rhythms. I played tennis. Every year for eight years, I went to the ten day Field of Love camp, which provided a loose community of like-minded people to hang out with for the rest of the year. I spent precious time with my women and men friends. I no longer hankered for a committed relationship, I surrendered to the idea that it would either appear or it wouldn’t.

Of course, there were still sexy interludes. There was the not to be missed International Tantra Festival in the foothills of Catalonia. This consisted of a marvellous mixture of raunch, hilarity and tantric structures. I went with my friend, writer, Monique Roffey. She recounted one of our experiences during this week at the feast on the last night, in her memoir With The Kisses of His Mouth –‘A man was being carried in, on the shoulders of some of the cooks from the kitchen. He was brown and glistening. I stared, trying to train my eyes to see correctly. Yes. He was glistening – with chocolate. His body was prone, arms held outwards as if preparing for a crucifixion. His torso was laden with fruit. Mangoes and peaches, pears and strawberries. Blueberries. A majestic Himalaya of whipped cream rose up along the centre of his body, from neck to navel. His cock was decorated with baubles of passion fruit, cherries, meringue puffs, purple pansies. The second course was announced. Him. The young cook was dessert.’ The Spanish women got going first, but eventually, we, the English women got going too. We emerged with our faces smeared with shiny chocolate and laughing copiously.

Then the age of 60 appeared on the distant horizon and I decided it was time for a change. That it was time to put some of these workshop love tools into practice. That it was time for that elusive committed relationship. I’d tried Guardian Soul Mates and joined in with pretending to be ten years younger than I was. Which was oddly distressing. I met a shamanic lecturer with a wolf skin on his bedroom door and a litany of men where I went into journalist mode to cope with my own or their lack of interest. The internet didn’t work for me.

So I made the decision to invoke a man into my life. I did all the things that I swore I would never do. The same ever-willing woman friend, Jayne, spent time with me while I concocted a list of attributes for this future partner and our future relationship, and then, horror of self-help horrors, stuck it on my bedroom wall. That illustrates the level of my determination. Jayne also bought me a little sculpture of a man and a woman embracing lovingly, I put it the centre of my bedroom shrine of jewels, photos and shells.

Ah ha and then there was Carlos. Most of the tantric practitioners in London, I found out, frequented the extraordinary massage land that is Carlos’ home in Highgate. If you want to be prepared for a juicy sex life, Carlos is the masseur of choice. He is incredible. Unafraid of his animal self and yet entirely trustworthy not to cross any unwanted boundaries, every massage is a journey into the wild. I surrendered myself completely to the experience. I once half-opened one eye to witness my entire foot in his mouth. He is fearless. And it’s wonderful.

Finally, I’d heard about the seven day Path of Love from a psychotherapist friend. It’s a group process where you can choose the issue that you’d like to address during that week. I made my mind up that this would be an ideal place to face into all the shame that I felt around not having a committed relationship as well as the messed up attempts along the way. In a grand stately home in Wales, I threw myself into this task like long distance runner with my steely eye on the prize.

And yet the week was more about sinking into my heart than anything else. We moved our bodies a lot. We shook ourselves into presence. We shared courageously. We ate in silence. We danced our pain into oblivion. And we surrendered to prayer – the kind where we ask for help outside support. I became a soft ball of melted mush. My brain disappeared. Oh the divine pleasure of just being there in all my emotional nakedness.

Magically, all that invoking had an effect. The invincible summer of hope showed itself. The man appeared. He heard my call. He was actually on the staff (volunteers who have already done the process) at the Path of Love and we’re still together three years later. Although the actual getting into that relationship is another story in itself!

Rose’s little red book of workshops, massages, etc.

Malcolm Stern still runs his One Year Group, The Courage To Change –

The Hoffman Process –

Jan Day’s Passion, Power and Love and Living Tantra 1 –

Carlos’ massage –

The Path of Love –

The Field of Love Summer Camp - 5th - 14th : Field of Love. Dorset


Menopausal Sex is the Best So Far

1 Minute Read

In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, sex lies at the bottom level, the foundation of the pyramid, alongside food and shelter. It's down there with the basics. Interesting then that my main and consistent focus, my life-long obsession if you like, has remained with sex. Despite having cruised some Maslow’s luxury levels like ‘personal development’.

In my teens, hungry for new experiences and curious about connecting (with myself and others) I had lots, and I mean lots of wild, irresponsible, unattached sex. In my twenties, I had some fantastic married sex. Then I had children and it all stopped for a while. Mercifully, it was a short while, but it took a love affair after the birth of my second child to light the pilot flame again. I'm forever grateful to the man-angel who swept me off my postpartum feet and got me interested once again in my sensual self.

In my late thirties, I discovered tantra. Hours and hours, months and years were spent exploring that enchanting wonderland. Tantra holds the key to awaken the senses - each sense a doorway into deeper pleasure, even spiritual expansion. I had so much tantric sex I became an expert, and even wrote a book on the subject. I can say with absolute certainty that after all that carnal (and spiritual) activity, sex in my fifties - post-menopausal I might add - is better, more exciting and engaging than ever. This is quite a claim, I know.

As I share some of the insights I've gained along the way, know that these are not prescriptions - this was my own path to journey on. One must always choose what is right for their body, heart and soul. The trick is to take the time to tune in and see what's happening for you in each and every moment.

One important factor: I've made an effort to look after my health, primarily paying attention to how my body feels - its needs and responses. A year ago when the symptoms of menopause unexpectedly hit me hard, I eliminated the foods I suspected I was allergic to. Within two weeks the chronic aches and pains disappeared and my mood swings leveled out. Since then, I've religiously stuck to a wheat-free, sugar-free diet, and seem to be circumnavigating the main problems associated with the change. What's more, I haven't been forced to succumb to HRT like many of my girlfriends.

Over the years I've experimented with detoxes and colonic hydrotherapy sessions. Dancing and sex are closely related activities, and I've danced a lot! To counteract my tendency towards hyper-activity and over-achieving, I've also spent a fair bit of time floating mindlessly in sensory deprivation tanks. I've gone to therapy and looked inside, practiced meditation and realised we are all One. There's very little I haven't tried when it comes to self-development. It may all sound a tad indulgent, but my goal, primarily has been to make the most of the short time I have on this planet. My reasoning was that if I found ways to keep myself filled to overflowing with positivity if not downright joy, I wouldn't resort to energy-vamping on other people. Thus, anyone who rubbed up against me would benefit from the significant investment in my general and sexual wellbeing. I would simply be a nicer person to be around.

A positive aspect of living life to the full, taking risks and weathering the occasional battering, is that by the time you're in your forties or fifties, the old ego isn't quite so fragile. Humility is a gift and one, which can allow you to become more devotional to your sexual partner/s. Devotion is a spiritual practice in itself and can be the fast track to expansion - particularly in the bedroom!

Early on in life, taking our first tentative, steps into intimate connection with other people, one can't help but have agendas around sex, finding a suitable partner, discovering in the mirror of 'another', who you are as a human being, perhaps even creating another human being in the process! It all seems rather complicated when you're in the tornado of youth. As we transition through the teenage years into young adulthood we also begin to care more about what other people think; Is this appropriate behaviour? Is my body normal? Am I a freak for wanting to try that kinky thing?

On and on the mind chatters, sabotaging our pleasure. There's often guilt and shame related to sex, unwittingly inherited from family and society. We're plagued with questions: 'What is sex? If sex is an 'act', does it have a beginning, a middle and an end? Should I even be having sex with this person? – maybe this is a mistake!…' Until we learn how to put the mind in its rightful place, it fucks with us, restricting our freedom of expression and stinting our spontaneity. We gather a huge pile of mental debris, which we dump on what should ideally be an organic and natural activity.

The wonderful thing about growing older is that all of those personal fears and societal concerns that seemed to matter to us then are irrelevant now. We can love more freely and unconditionally without fear of losing ourselves in all those tedious head-games we used to play when we were working out how to 'do' relationships. We're not so afraid of making fools of ourselves, there's less embarrassment over showing who we really are, in our nakedness and vulnerability.

I find older men are more patient and less goal-orientated. They’re interested in what turns their partner on, not what they can get. Men who have journeyed through some life experience are more able to be ‘present’ – and they’ve (hopefully) learned how to give and receive. These are crucial qualities in a fulfilling sexual encounter. They enjoy each moment for what it is – a very tantric approach. Young men tend to be more acquisitive in every sense, materially and sexually. If guys pay attention along the way, they might find out, for example, that although it generally takes men about three minutes from the piquing of interest to the point of being able to fuck; women take at least twenty minutes of good, all-over body foreplay to be fully aroused and ready for penetrative sex.

On the purely physical level, because most people don't talk openly about sex they don't realise that there's a solution for almost every conceivable sexual problem. For example, I'm asked from time to time – 'has your vagina stopped lubricating as effectively as it used to?'. The answer is no - firstly, because I set about learning how to ejaculate and secondly, I found a miraculous product called Secret Ceres. Ask the internet where you can buy one - trust me, it works! Also, along with my daily Pilates programme, which keeps my body fit and flexible, I practice tantric breathing and vaginal squeezing techniques, similar to Kegels, which have strengthened my vagina to an incredible degree over the years. These exercises support bigger, stronger, longer orgasms. Who wouldn't want those? Through constant research and inquiry, I've found solutions to a raft of sexual issues affecting women and men.

My own sex life is as important to me as it was thirty five years ago and the attention I've given it over the years has paid off. Fundamentally, I'm happy. Whoever I'm having sex with is happy. I figure this is good energy to be putting out into the cosmos. So here's a positive affirmation worth reciting - I will be having hot, horny and ridiculously eccentric sex until the day I die.

Swipe for sex

1 Minute Read

It was Suzanne, she of this site who told me to go Tinder. Basically I hadn't been writing nor had I been fucking and was missing both. "You go on Tinder then you can write about it. Win-win."

Having done reasonably well out of the analogue world: trains, planes, beaches, restaurants and the London Underground have all produced encounters, some of which became more, I generally consider the online dating scene as a cut-price marketplace for people who can’t get laid. These sites parade an endless stream of dull and wounded men. You know what I mean. Men who say they want ‘an honest and loving woman,’ a phrase which says very clearly they'd been chucked for their best friend. At the other end of the scale, were men who thoughtfully introduced themselves with a picture of their cock, forgetting this was an expectation, not an added feature on which to sell yourself.

But we live in tough times and sometimes an older babe has to get with the programme.  I got on Tinder at 9pm wondering how anyone could spend hours on what is a pretty crappy computer game and was still there at midnight.  Then  he turned up. French. Intellectual. He was early forties, traded something that made him lots of money and well read.  We chatted, well, we messaged with little effort. I was sure he would just wait until his moment and then send me the message that seems to be the calling card for a lot of men on dating sites: “I want to cum on ur face.” Since he was French and well educated it might be more like, “My body and soul, not just my cock, dreams of coming all over your beautiful face.”

It didn’t happen.

At some point he asked me if I’d read Hadrien’s Wall by Marguerite Youcenar.

“No it has been suggested but I haven’t read it.”

“Bad girl. You should be punished.”

Now every so often I come across a dominant type and I rather enjoy it. I recalled that I thought he looked a bit strict in his photos. It made sense. I knew how to pick them. At that point the discussion moved up fifty levels, to the joys of BDSM. He wasn’t into the whole Master/Sir nonsense which just turns me off but he had a way about him. He knew his stuff.

“I like whips,” he tapped.

“Why do you like whips?” I said it in the same way I might ask someone about their gluten-free food choices.

“They make a good sound and leave nice marks.”

“Yes I can see how that would work for you.”

If this was a bar, the conversation would have reached the dry throat, wet everything else mode. The only difference was that we couldn’t see each other.

“But I do prefer to use a flogger generally. Or my hand. I would like to to flog you but first I would like to kiss you.”

I gulped and took a deep breath.

He lived between Paris and London, mostly the former but he would be in London after the weekend. It was Thursday. He said he had Monday and Wednesday free and we should go to dinner. I didn’t want to seem too eager, even though I was on heat pretty much, so I said, “What about Wednesday?”

He said Monday would be so much better as he couldn’t wait to see me.

I reiterated that Wednesday was better (subtext: I don’t want to be that easy)  but he said no, he needed to see me on Monday.

“I want to do beautiful, terrible and passionate things to you.”

So, because I am led by my sexual desires and have no shame, I immediately said yes to Monday.

“We need to get out of here now.”

“Where shall we go? “ I asked. I mean we were on Tinder’s messaging app. Was there a chill out room I didn’t know about? A secret place for Tinderati?

“What’s App. I’ll see you there.”  Digital intimacy is a strange concept.

We retired to Whats App and the conversation continued intermittently through the weekend. On Monday he sent me a message from Eurostar. My first thought was he was going to cancel, as my few attempts at digital dating ended up in cancellations. I put this down to something I call the Power of Fresh Pussy.  Fundamentally what you have is a state of Perfect Potential. The illusion of the internet is that there is an endless, nay infinite, candy store to choose from and for men this is particularly compelling and fits nicely with their attention spans. The result is that they might make a date with you but in the meantime they discover there is another and another. Instead of having the date they  are blinded by Pussy Potential and they can't choose.  Of course the fact that not everyone is there for them has not penetrated their brain.

“I have booked L’Atelier Robuchon and will be in the bar from 7pm. Take your time.”

Of course I would take my time. I would just go about my day as if it were completely normal. In fact I’d forget totally that we had even spoken and that he’d already worked me up into a state where I was unable to think about anything else.  That evening at half six I’d remember I had a date with a man with a filthy mind and a strict manner and I would just throw on something I found  in the bottom of the wardrobe and say to anyone who asked, “Yeah, I’ve got this like date. Drag huh?”

I’d spent a considerable number of hours selecting two dresses that morning. London’s weather, generally on the nasty side of whimsical was being particularly difficult to interpret. The skies looked ominous so perhaps a dress and a pair of reckless heels was not going to work. Plus there was another, far greater factor at play. I had to consider what I could wear home if we ended up in bed. I am not a woman who delays the inevitable. If he pours fuel on the fire, I'm not putting it out.

I called Suzanne. “I am not sure whether to look like I am up for it or I might be up for it.”

“He knows you’re up for it already. Anyway, you’re on Tinder. He’s made a date with you without having to do any more than he’d have to do to call a hooker.”

You couldn’t fault her sense of romance. In the end I wore a leather pencil skirt with a small split in the side and a chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up in the manner of a Vogue editor. I added Miu Miu high heels.  The look said smart, and a challenge but will fuck in the right circumstances.” Throwing flat shoes into my bag along with some eye-makeup remover (don’t want to wake up with panda eyes) and a small tube of moisturiser I was ready. I didn’t put a toothbrush in my bag as it seemed so premeditated and I didn’t want him to think I had thought that far ahead.

He was sitting in the bar on the top floor when I arrived. I recognised him immediately because joy of joys, he did look like his picture.  A picture on a screen always felt a far riskier thing to pursue, than screwing a guy I’d just met in transit at Singapore airport.  I’m really old fashioned like that.

There was a kiss on both cheeks and then we just melted into conversation.  We were smiling a lot and I think as far the staff were concerned it wasn’t awkward which was good because you really don’t want restaurant staff looking over at you thinking “Met on a site. First date.”

I ordered a Lychee Martini. “Aren’t you drinking,” I asked noting his virginal orange juice.

He smiled. “I haven’t drunk for twenty years since I went overboard.”

We went out on the terrace to smoke and size each other up.

Two Martinis later (me) and we were leaning forward, closing the rest of the world out, only to be interrupted by a waitress who wanted to show us to our table. We’d actually been given a spot that was easily the most  secluded in the restaurant. “Did you ask for this?” He laughed. “No they just gave it to us.” “Are you sure?” He knew what I was thinking and his eyes twinkled. Yep. Lust. It comes along and doesn’t usually bring love or even a deeper connection with it. You make your decision knowing that you are about to ride the wave and when it drops you, you must be be gracious and remember that it was a just a moment. That is lust. Anything else is optional. I however, was in the mood for lust. It had been a while since it had seemed like such a good idea.

Word to the wise: Never, ever underestimate staff at top restaurants: they are very savvy and I think the fact that he had already stroked my face and produced a visible shiver of anticipation had not gone unnoticed so they’d decided would be a good idea to give us a table that suited everyone’s purpose. Thus we were screened off from the rest of the room.

At some point he whispered,“I’d like to take you to a dungeon.”

Theatre, riverside walk, country pub, dungeon. It was all the same to me.

‘Why yes, of course,” I said as nonchalantly as I could with his hands stroking my neck. I would like that very much.”

If there had existed any doubt that we were going to spend some quality time together, he settled it when he leaned over and whispered.

“Remove your panties.”

It had been a few years since I’d engaged in this particular manoeuvre but reader you will be delighted to know I’d lost none of my skill and acquitted myself perfectly, deftly whipping off my Rigby and Pellers and sliding them down my leg while kicking off my shoes.

I reached down and then handed them to him, making a mental note to remember to ask for them back as they were quite expensive and nothing would match the bra otherwise. I did think it was a shame that he wouldn’t see me in the set but hell, sex was generally a messy business.

Now if a waiter can see there is  no white wine in your glass from across the room, they know a man has your panties in his hands and is now putting them to his lips.  Which brings us to the food.

It was most excellent but eating had turned into a sideshow by now. I remember my  sea bass was so delicate but as I ate it, all I could think of was sex which, in retrospect probably had something to do with the bubbles of lemongrass foam that were sitting on it. I think it’s fair to say thing were going very well at this point. By dessert he’d moved next to me, had his fingers tightly around my neck and my head was running through bondage scenarios. The air around us was heavily scented with the right amount of tension and just enough danger to make it interesting.

There was more foam when dessert arrived and he asked me to feed him. He didn’t want the berries underneath the foam as they were too cold. “If you give them to me I will punish you.”

“Yes of course.” I fed him the berries. He squeezed my neck in a way that said, “I totally mean it.”

I knew I had basically given him my cards and all I wanted him to do was play. He knew he had me (well he probably had me at hello) so did what every smart man in his position does. He leverages it.

“The hotel is not far away,” he whispered. “But first I need an espresso. And you need to wait.”

Somehow we made it to the hotel. Inside the lift, the padded walls had evidently aroused his no so latent dungeon instincts and he pushed me back, just watching me as he lifted my hands above my head. We were not the only ones in the lift. There were three other people trying not to look but look at the same time.  The lift door opened at the next floor and our fellow passengers couldn’t leave fast enough, no doubt headed for the stairwell to continue their journey without having to deal with an elevator now saturated with sex.

He on the other hand was completely unconcerned by them and was undoing my shirt. He seemed quite pleased with himself. I was very pleased with him.By the time we got to his room, he’d obtained my bra so I felt I didn’t have to worry about losing the panties as he’d put them together. Thoughtful.

It was one of those evenings where our bodies burned  faster than a startup shredding money. In the morning he endeared himself to me by ordering cake products for breakfast. Little pistachio cakes that were sugary and sweet and exactly what I would have chosen for myself.  “I will be back soon,” he said. “I really want to see you.” A perfect tonic after months of absolutely no fun. Which is probably what Tinder is for: a  palate cleanser.

Losing my libido was a blessing in disguise

1 Minute Read

It was 2006 when my first book, ‘The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker’ was published to great acclaim. The story of my erotic journey from celibate wife to prolific swinger, within a month it was on the bestseller list and for a brief period I became a minor celebrity. Men I didn’t know emailed begging me for a date, documentary makers wooed me in the hope of filming my life story and lots of journalists (mainly middle-aged men) contacted me hoping for an interview (and sometimes more).

I was forty-five and having the time of my life. I had a stable of highly experienced lovers whom I rotated on a bi-monthly basis. If I was a little bored I would drive to a 'naturist club' in Kentish Town during my lunchtime, pick up the guy with the biggest dick, and shag him.

Some friends worried that I was turning into a sex addict but I knew it was a phase. After an unhappy marriage and the death of a partner, I wanted nothing more than to distance myself from my own emotions and immerse myself in the world of erotic pleasure. If you’re going to be a total hedonist, there’s no better time to go for it then in your forties.

Free of the drama that often surrounds relationships in their twenties and thirties, the forties are the perfect time to have no-strings sex and, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find someone who knows how to fuck. London may not have the romance of Paris or a fetish scene like Berlin but I found no shortage of men in London whose entire aim in life appeared to be to make a woman feel more pleasure than she ever thought possible.

During the ten years I was on the swinging scene I tried most things including BDSM, threesomes, foursomes and a lot more that I’ve long since forgotten. For two years I only had threesomes because, by then, I knew what I liked and it was that. I couldn’t see the point of having 1-on-1 sex when being filled up by two men felt so much better. They were all nice guys too. Not the most handsome to look at but they were fun and funny and when it came to sex they all had put in their 10,000 hours. Sometimes I felt so much pleasure coming from so many different erogenous zones that I didn’t even know who was doing what and where.

It was 2007 and I was 46 when the broadcaster and writer Jenni Murray contacted me to ask if she could pick my brains over lunch for a book she was writing. Of course I agreed (who wouldn’t?) and so we arranged to meet at Delanceys in Camden Town. A good ten years older than me and past the menopausal stage of life, I remember her saying, “I’d be interested to see if you’re still as sexually vociferous during your menopause as you are now. That should be interesting.”

At the time I brushed off her remark. I was at least five years off worrying about the menopause and so caught up in the moment; it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t always be up for it.

Then I turned 52. I had started dating a younger guy two years earlier after I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t attempt to reengage with intimacy, I’d probably end up as a pro. Others I knew on the swinging scene were making money from sex work and I’d had no shortage of offers to do the same but always declined. Thanks but no thanks. I could never see the point of mixing that kind of business with pleasure. My boyfriend was handsome and funny and so I made the decision to cut my ties with the scene and try monogamy for a change.

At the beginning it was great but then the menopause caught up with me. I no longer could sleep through the night and I was sweating all the time. For the first time, sex wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the morning. If my boyfriend was lying next to me, I was horny but if he wasn’t, I never thought about it. That was weird too because throughout my forties I was so horny that I’d sometimes have to escape to the company toilet to get myself off. So it took a while to get used to the new person that I was becoming and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. My sex drive had been such an integral part of my life; I spent a year grieving over its loss.

Over that year I noticed that men stopped looking at me in the streets and I stopped wearing no knickers. The high heels collected dust and I bought brogues and cowboy boots and traded in my tight skirts for jeans. My boyfriend stuck by because he loved me but I felt guilty at denying a young guy sex when I’d spent the previous ten years shagging every man in sight. Eventually we broke up. It hardly seemed fair that he should have to go without just because I couldn’t be bothered.

Menopause isn’t something that comes and then goes; it’s a slow burn and it takes a while to get used to. I now feel, at 55, like I’m coming out the other side and I’ve not only come to terms with the loss of my libido, I’m actually liking the new, not-so-sexual me. I’m calmer than I used to be, more confident in my decision-making and more relaxed. I’m no longer thinking about the next time I’m going to get laid or worried that it might never happen again. I still have a great black book, I just don’t have the urge to open it up as much as I used to.

If my forties were all about ignoring my girlfriends in favour of shagging a stranger, my fifties are about reconnecting and enjoying the time I spend with my female friends.

And I’m loving work in a way that I didn’t during my swinging years when my job always took second place to getting laid. I’m more focused, more determined to succeed and free of constant sexual urges, there’s far less distraction in my life.

Losing one’s libido isn’t the end of the world, especially when one has had the kind of sex life I have had. I certainly don’t regret spending my forties with my skirt up and my knickers off most of the time. It was great fun - a real roller coaster ride of pleasure and pain. I’m looking forward to the next ten years and beyond as a time for travel, for good food and wine, for work and for spending times with friends. Sex will always be in my life just not in the same way it was before and, you know what, I couldn’t be happier.

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