There are many things in Fleabag that don’t resonate. Her sprawling central London family home and garden; her one-bedroom apartment, (presumably) paid for with earnings from her themed cafe; her sibling; her perfectly proportioned frame for flattering jumpsuits. I also don’t really get what’s so fascinating about guinea pigs.

There are a few things in Fleabag that resonate so perilously close to my Brexit-thrashed soul that I have to keep pressing pause on iPlayer because I’m crying so extravagantly I’m literally choking and can no longer hear the dialogue, nor see the subtitles.

Here’s the first one: I have had, in the last couple of years, two rounds of CBT, both of which I have completed earlier than the standard six weeks prescribed at the beginning of the treatment. I learned that the quickest route out of my anxiety was through the completion of empty flow charts and questionnaires, memorising the ‘correct’ responses that I knew my counsellor wanted to hear. After only a couple of sessions, I was regularly getting the answers right. I was good at therapy. Fleabag was good at therapy, too. We were smashing it!

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The second thing: something that was explored during series 2 was the following question: where does love go when the person is no longer in your life? Whether that be through death or any kind of breakup, it’s something I have been thinking about a lot over the last couple of weeks.

Fleabag’s relationship with the (‘sexy’) priest seemed to me a double-edged sword. On the one hand, his sexual restraint was exactly what she needed. Here was a single man who had great chat, was acceptably eccentric, enjoyed M&S gin-in-a-can and genuinely seemed like he wanted to get to know her as a person and not a pseudonym. Soon we could see her dick-swinging bravado worn down to reveal a deeply vulnerable woman who was – like many of us – overwhelmed with the choices and challenges presented by modern life. She was finally letting us know that it was okay to admit to needing someone and asking for help, without the self-referential asides and audacious one-liners.

His continued insistence that they weren’t going to sleep together, and whether or not this was manipulative or just something a sexy priest would do, given that, SPOILER ALERT, they totally did bone, is explored here by the New Statesman’s Anna Leszkiewicz. She puts it much better than I can because she’s a professional, so give it a read.

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I’ve always been a great believer in romantic love. I’m lucky to have family members and friends who model healthy relationships and show me what I have to look forward to if I keep working at it. But unlike my CBT courses, I’m actually pretty crap at it. It’s not something I can revise, or look up the answer to on the internet. I’m ultimately not going to be rewarded by saying the right things or giving up my evenings and weekends, because there’s another person involved with an agenda of their own, one which I have no control over. It’s taken me a long time to work that out, and accepting it is an ongoing process. Perhaps that’s my privilege showing, or maybe it’s too many Disney movies.

When the priest gives his reading at the wedding, he talks about how love is basically a shit-show unless you can share it with others. Love doesn’t exist in isolation – you need to have that connection with another person in order for it to be. That doesn’t mean they have to feel the same way about you; very much like pain, we feel it in different ways, to varying degrees. You’ll never truly know another person’s experience of it when the singular word ‘love’ is a catch-all term.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge has turned a one-woman fringe play about grief into an extroardinary series that, due to its willingness to rip open the ribcages of women up and down the country and give our still-beating hearts a good old squeeze for 27 minutes every Monday, I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Since I’m the only person in my house who pays it, I don’t say this often, but Fleabag’s mind-soothing benefits are well worth the annual TV licence fee. And at £25 an episode, it’s actually a lot cheaper than therapy.

(Also, Claire delivers the best line of dialogue in the history of television: ‘I look like a pencil.’)

The full series of Fleabag is available on iPlayer.


Bad Date Diaries #3: Beard

It’s my first ever online date. Michael suggests an All Bar One in Covent Garden, near the Actor’s Church. He’s an actor, you see. I think this was what first attracted me to his online dating resume, along with his numerical maturity (thirty-one) and a hope that he knows his Beckett from his Bennett.

He greets me outside the tube station at the junction where too many people loiter, causing a bottleneck and untold misery for all. I have never had a grown man interested in me before, and it’s a little overwhelming. He could maybe pass for twenty-seven, which is still an advance on my twenty years on the planet, nineteen of which have been spent on a tiny island.

I don’t really listen to what he’s talking about as we walk down the street; something about drama lessons. The London Actor’s Centre Is Better Than Pineapple For Movement Classes, he is saying. I run over the line in my head, banking the information for later in case he asks for my opinion.

We cross the road and enter the chain bar, sitting down at a table suitable for at least another four people. He asks if I’d like a drink, and I order a gin and tonic, which I’d only recently started getting the hang of.

“Hendricks, please, if they have it, with a slice of cucumber.”

He comes back with a Gordons, the plasticky botanicals are jarring. It’s alright that he went for house gin, I think. He’s not earning much, being an actor.

Michael asks what I study at university and I begin to tell him some things about my degree course. His eyes dart around a lot as I speak, so I focus on his beard. A tiny cluster of black fibres is caught in the bottom of his blond beard hair, and I look at it for a while. I wonder if I should make a joke of it, point it out to break the ice.

You’ve got some of your scarf on your face.


Your beard is a little overdressed, perhaps it’d like to take off its coat.


You’ve got fluff in your chin crack.

I decide not to mention it. I ask him who his favourite actor is instead.

“Oh, well,” he says. That’d have to be Al Pacino. What a talent.”

“Do you like Benedict Cumberbatch?” I ask.


“He’s a good actor, no? In Sherlock. Do you watch it?”

“I’ve seen an episode or two. Taxi Driver, though, what a great film. Great film.” He shakes his head.

“I haven’t seen it,” I say.

“You haven’t seen it? I thought you were a film student?”

The fluff in his beard has migrated to the other side of his chin.

“No, I read music. Bach and Mozart and stuff like that. I take a class on synchronising sound to film, though.”

“Hey! I’m walking here! Ha ha ha. I can’t believe a film student hasn’t seen Taxi Driver, Jesus.”

“Isn’t that a quote from Midnight Cowboy?”

“What? No, it’s definitely Taxi Driver,” Michael says, looking past me at a slim blonde woman leaning against the bar. I realise that my G&T is almost finished. We have only been here forty-two minutes, and said if a date lasts less than an hour, it’s a ‘grade A disaster’.

“Can I get us another round?” I ask, standing up. I’m not sure if “round” is the right word, since it’s just the two of us, and I feel my cheeks burning.

“Sure.” He glances at the clock on the wall, shifting his eyes away from the blonde woman’s cleavage long enough to conceptualise time. “I can probably fit another one in.”

I return with two pints of cloudy-looking ale, which are tepid and smell like soggy haystacks. He says “thanks” while staring at his phone. I imagine he’s telling his mate about the attractive woman at the bar he isn’t currently on an internet date with, but dearly wishes he was.

“Hey, so my mate is on Southbank so I’ll finish up here and head over, if that’s cool?”

“Oh, sure, don’t let me keep you,” I sip my expensive pint, trying not to breathe through my nose. “Cheers.”

The black fluff has headed north to his left cheek. I can’t take my eyes off it. Michael continues looking at his phone, ignoring me. I venture some further conversation to break the silence.

“Did you always want to be an actor?”

“Nah, I just wasn’t very academic so it seemed like a good idea after I left school.”

“I thought I might go into acting, maybe musical theatre–”

He made a snorting sound, his head snapping up, eyes lingering on my torso.

“I mean, you have to look a certain way to do that.”

“How’s that?” I feel my eyebrows shoot into my hairline, hidden by my massive fringe.

“You know… have the right type of body.”

I inhale slowly, tracing my fingers up the damp pint glass.

“I see. Well, thanks for the advice, you saved me the bother of many rejected castings.”

“No problem.”

I pull a face, again mostly concealed by my hair. Did he think I was being genuine, when he’d just…

“Listen, my mate is actually keen for me to go and meet him now, do you mind?” Michael looks earnest, glancing at the door.

“No, go ahead.”

I’m desperate for him to leave. Michael stands up, six quid-worth of disgusting pint untouched.

“Nice one, my dude.” He fist-bumps me, and leaves.

I sit back in the chair, feeling my whole body relax, and catch the eye of the blonde woman by the bar.

“Bit old for you, isn’t he?” She smiles, and I extend the corners of my mouth sideways in response. “Wonder why he can’t find someone his own age. You probably had a lucky escape, there.”