I wake up only four-and-a-half hours later at 6.15am looking like a bloodhound. My eyes, pickled onions in their sockets, are unsympathetic as they look back at me from the bathroom mirror.
"OK," I nod in agreement to them, "I know. I've mourned so many dead relationships it's a miracle that I'm not permanently dressed head-to-toe in black. But things are changing around here."
After a quick shower, I drip water whilst walking back into the bedroom, dragging my Joseph linen trousers from my wicker chair of a wardrobe, and lay them on the bed along with my feel-good lemon blouse. Plugging in the GHD's I head for the kitchen, and my first coffee of the day. The Pussy Cat Dolls show off from the radio, teasing all the married men and boyfriends with their 'doncha wish your girlfriend was hot like me' I switch it off in disgust. I'm looking forward to the liberating option of choosing to stay single. I'm going to be a confident man-free zone and not a downtrodden needy gtb (girlfriend-to-be)!
Hopping onto the tube at Belsize Park, I have a renewed faith in myself. With the absence of married men and unsuitable dates to distract me, nothing carries connotations anymore. That cute guy at the ticket office who smiled at me? He might as well have been my granddad. And that handsome dark man wearing the expensive suit who offered me his seat? I just took it with a 'thank you' and a polite smile. This is refreshing, and I feel inspired.
I arrive at the Woman to Woman offices five minutes late and Delaney is already on the warpath. She's written, in huge capital letters in black marker pen, the word 'TIME?' on a sheet of A4 and has propped it against my computer screen for everyone to see. I roll my eyes and catch Angela Johnson grinning wickedly from her desk - well I think she's grinning. Her lips are pursed together as tight as a cats arse - but it's the best attempt at a smile that I've ever seen from her! Everything points to it being the start of a dificult day and I decide that a long mug of camomile tea is the first task. Giles, the good-looking, newly-wed and overly-sensible Technology journalist is already in the small galley kitchen, making himself a decaf with skimmed milk. We mumble a quick 'hi' to each other when Steve, our flirty photographer comes bowling in.
"Hey, Sophie!" And how's my beautiful assistant features writer this morning then?" And before I can reply he grabs my shoulders and spins me around to face him, "Hmmm, lovely top. And yellow really suits you. You're a cracker you know, Sophie?" It's hard to smile and look appreciative whilst also professional. So I don't.
"Excuse me, Steve," I deadpan, "my teabag needs removing."
He laughs at me, slapping my bum as himself and Giles leave me in the kitchen alone. I'm infuriated at the old-boys-network mentality and, thankful that I'm alone in the kitchen, begin to rang, squeezing my teabag against the side of the mug with the back of my spoon, frantically.
"Who the hell do these guys think they are? I'm fucking sick, sick, sick of all of them. These married men, these 'somebody-elses-guys' and ignorant ugly personalitites thinking that they're god's gift! Honestly, I don't know how they get away with it, but I swear, if another creep ever slaps my arse like that again, I'll knock his frigging head off! That's bloody well it. No more men. Not for a year. I don't care who they are, how good loking they are, how loaded, funny, cute, kind of whatever the fuck else they are. No more men. I'm staying single for the year. And that's a bloody promise!"
I scoop the teabag with a spoon and fire it across the room, watching it splat against the wall above the bin, and then drop straight into the gaping open lid. I jump at the sound of very slow clapping and Delaney's gravelly voice slices the air like cheese wire,
"Well, fuck me, Sophie Regan. That was the most passionate stream of words that's come out of you since you started here. Iwant 1500 words.
On staying single.
You just got yourself a column."
"No! Jennifer! I'm bloody serious!" I hiss into my mobile in the ladies toilets. "She heard everything I said and now wants me to write a column about it. I'm taking over Victoria Harris' column whilst she's off in rehab. No! I agree, this is not good!"
My sister is offhand the other end of the phone. It doesn't help that she's pushing her shopping trolley around a supermarket somewhere in South Dublin and our conversation is peppered with the 'ping pong' of announcements of the price of spuds and fresh bread. She is disgusted that I've agreed to do this,
"Sophie, Jesus! You have to simply say no! I know it's not a word that you're overly familiar with, but for Christ's sake! You do realise that publicising your, ahh, your, your..., em, inadequacy isn't going to help you find a decent man."
"Oh, you know what I mean. Don't split hairs. Listen," I hear the muffle in her voice as she props her mobile under her chin while she loads the conveyor belt with items,
"That's going to be the death toll for any future relationships Sophie. You can forget any male attention now. You'll be portrayed as a dried up spinster. No man's going to go near you now. You do realise that. Babe, basically, you're fucked!"
And I have to agree with her. It's one thing teling my friends and family about my desperation in the dating stakes, but to make it public for the entire country to see is another thing. Damn Victoria Harris and her over-powdering of her nose! Can't I go into rehab - relationship rehab? It'd be great, to put myself into a sanctuary where there's no temptation and just nurturing and pampering! Hey, maybe that's what I'm doing. OK - so I could call the column Relationship Rehab - if I decide to do it....