It's not often that I spend an evening by myself. It's such a rarity that, when I imagine it, I build the idea up as a special treat, a chance to do what I like, an opportunity to pretend that I'm a grown-up independent woman, in charge of my own destiny and decisions.
I hadn't expected to be on my own tonight. It wasn't until Megan called, just as I was leaving work, that I knew both she and Philip had alternative plans. My day at work had been stupidly busy, so the previously unforeseen promise of a peaceful, solitary evening dangled alluringly in front of me all the way home. A bit like an air freshener on a rear view mirror.
The trouble with car deodorisers though is that the fresh new atmosphere they promise usually turns out to be a false unnatural scent, masking the reality. Even with my appalling sense of smell, I know that's not the right ambience for me.
It's a rare occasion that I come home to a dark and silent house. I'm usually the last one back, the one coming in to shoes parked by the front door, bags dropped somewhere between there and the kitchen, opened mail scattered across the dining table and the radio playing loudly in the background. Minor annoyances, that are easily cancelled out by a cheerful welcome, the offer of a nice cup of tea, and the sight of debris in the kitchen, promising me a lovely dinner already half cooked.
Tonight the only greeting was an insistent one from the cat, wondering why he'd had to wait so long to be fed. After I'd answered his demands and made myself a cuppa, I mooched around the kitchen, hoping for some inspiration on the food front. I've never seen the point of cooking just for me. I'd hoped to finish off last night's rhubarb crumble, but it seems someone had that for breakfast. Luckily there was some cold meat in the fridge, so a lamb sandwich dinner it was.
Half an hour home and I was already feeling a bit sorry for myself. I turned on the TV - not just for the sound of the voices; this was my night in charge, I could watch what I liked. Well, I could within reason. A quick flick through the channels showed me that the value of controlling the remote is in direct proportion to the quality of the programmes on offer.
I was just about to turn off in contempt, when a news-clip from years ago caught my attention. The footage panned across a scene at Heathrow airport where hundreds, perhaps thousands of screaming teenage girls waited to welcome the arrival from the United States of their heart throb David Cassidy. In an instant I was transported back to the early 1970s, to the first time I ever went to a concert, the first time I ever felt completely part of a whole experience, watching, listening, feeling, the beat of the music coming up through the floor, my screams joining the others echoing around Wembley Stadium.
Sitting here tonight, in our house in Shoreham, I could see myself back in my bedroom in Croxted Road; playing the Cherish album again and again; singing along to every word and holding onto the album cover as tightly as if it had been him. I loved David Cassidy then, really loved him, and like so many millions of girls the world over, I convinced myself that I only had to meet him to persuade him that he'd love me too. I started saving up. I wasn't yet old enough for a Saturday job, but my pocket money pennies and birthday gifts that year all went into a special box; it had a slit in the top and a label on the front - my 'going to America to marry David Cassidy' fund.
I can remember all that so well, but strangely I can't remember when I stopped poring over the pictures in Jackie magazine, when I discovered other albums to listen to, found another use for my pennies. I don't even know what happened to the going-to-America box. I suspect it happened gradually, as I slowly understood it wasn't a reality and there were other, better, things to spend my time thinking about, wishing and wanting.
Then it came to me, forty years later, sitting here in our house in Shoreham, that's exactly what will happen to my dreams of spending time alone - one day I'll just know that there are other, better, things to spend my time thinking about, wishing and wanting.