It has taken a couple of weeks to begin to process what the last few weeks have brought and meant. The beginning of a new decade has always brought me up short and because at the end of this one is my seventh decade and that is without a doubt the beginning of old age, this one rumbled loudly for longer before it arrived than other special birthdays. But also because this year I spent my birthday in the company of my Love, on His own ground and with no agenda other than celebration and enjoyment for those days which is both new for Him and me and truly lovely.

I want to start in the middle as is my wont, with the maelstrom of feelings and experiences that overwhelmed me after lunch on the Saturday and I retreated to my hotel room to sleep and to disengage. I was missing it all, even when I was there I was missing it. Not that anyone would notice, I was certainly there but I felt I wasn’t present. I was milling, not sure what I was doing there, unsure of my people, uncertain of what I was bringing, what I offered and what I stood to gain from attending. I had greeted lovely people I had met before, engaged with the excellent seminars and still was lost. It seemed everywhere there were couples and groups and God forgive me for this, other loners like me feeling on the outside and not quite able to connect, like a series of parallel lines never to meet, always heading somewhere else but so close that from a distance they look as though they will converge sometime.

I knew I would regret going to my room, I knew that I would miss fascinating insights, brilliant conversations and wonderful opportunities. I knew that I would then feel less than connected for the evening event which was a bit of a celebration in my own head for my birthday – aren’t we all the centres of our own world in the end – but it was what I needed to do to be there at all, in any capacity.

I had been feeling disconnected before I came. Not managing my twitter account well, not commenting on people’s blog posts and photos in the open engaging way I can when I am at my best. Something was awry and I couldn’t put my finger on it except that it felt familiar and ugly.

Following Madeleine Morris’ brilliant seminar on taboo we spoke about my teenaged enjoyment of pulling out fully soaked tampons with a full bladder to give myself the thrilling sense of engorgement and displacement and how this was a transgressive subject, one I might mine for more writing another time. It was an easy enlivened interaction that it felt good to take part in, the epitome of what I go to Eroticon for.

At this point my critical self stepped in “if you ever bother to write again, who’s really interested? There is no one waiting for your next post other than you. You don’t write erotica, you failed at the first smut marathon fence you could fail at, your allusions are obscure and your writing imperfectly formed, your tone is self pitying, your ideas are passe. You have nothing to say that is either hot or edifying, you’re an out of touch old woman calling herself a girl with a body you should cover up and not show off because you are too lazy to go to the gym. You are an old fool, and there is no fool like an old fool”

I fought this voice all day. She forced me to sit on my own because my company wasn’t welcome. To walk the other way when someone I knew came towards me, to avoid the the sponsors because I wasn’t their target market. To leave seminars early so I could go to the loo on my own and avoid contact at the toilets. To look at my phone and not at the faces around me. To disconnect, to feel alone, and to make sure I was.

Reader I struggled, I struggled with no one knowing or seeing it and that is no one’s fault. The fact is I was/am struggling with my place in a kinky world at the age of 60 and still fighting some of the demons that have dogged me since my teens regarding my ability to focus, to create and to birth something other than children, precious as they are, but something else, born of me in congress with the world. Each time I heard people talk of scheduling posts, having lists of blogs they wanted to write, keeping records of what they had done, having a plan, monetising, charging their worth, I wanted to celebrate them and their drive (and do now) but at the time it felt like a mirror reflecting my shallow existence here and that seemed that I was endlessly splashing in the shallows instead of deep diving into the depths.

This voice is familiar. She is the voice of overwhelm and fear. She tries to keep me safe by cutting me down to size when she fears I am stepping out too far into the world and since in her world there is no one else to catch me she does her best to stop me from gong there. Turning sixty, in-spite of how lovely a day it had been, had triggered her with the accuracy of a digital alarm clock, and she was alarmed.

My recollections of Eroticon are hazy, I have notes from the first morning but not after that. I surfed it, I surfed it untidily, lacking grace and poise and I certainly didn’t stand up on the board, but I got to the end feeling better about myself than I did in the middle.

I shared my room with the lovely May More who is a delight and a good friend. I chatted with many, connected with few and I am truly sorry about that but I had to plough my own furrow as always and that involved dealing with my own demon, my own way. Eroticon – not just Eroticon actually – conferences – can be a heady mix of emotions and it isn’t just those who identify as introverts who can struggle at times.

There are many positives from this period which, having got this out of the way I feel able to write about. I will tell you of a lovely lunch on Camden High Street where we pretended to be in Italy and drank Pinot Grigio, ate seafood linguine and had an Amaretto with our coffee as we sat in the sun. I will tell you about a trip to the Doctor Martin shop for the finest pair of oxblood brogues you can buy and how we laughed at the limited edition brass that he had had in his kitchen that was being sold by the pound in the market. I will tell you about our trip to Charleston, our dinner in the tapas bar where I spoke Italian instead of Spanish to the waiter because I haven’t been out to the country in the sun for years. I will tell you of kitchen dancing to Bob Marley, and finding the dog’s toy at the bottom of the bed, left for me as a gift, and of Prosecco in the hot tub under a cold, bright, dark night with my ankle held as we grinned and grinned.

I will tell you more because in the end that is all I can do and because it seems I can meet people more easily in my writing and my twitter account than I can in person – perhaps that is the truth of what I experienced at Eroticon this year.  The power of the connections I have online are tricky for me to translate into a group and I manage them better in a one to one setting than at an event.  So if I missed you there and you would like to meet or chat please let me know.  Coffee or a gin and tonic is always a good thing.

Or maybe it really was the destabilising effect of moving from one decade to another and having negotiated that and perched again to have my ruffled feathers soothed I will put my bracelet on my wrist and prepare to fly again?

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