A friend once said to me: “Don’t you find it peculiar that we’re most in love with someone when we know them the least?” Long-term relationships are not our forte. We share an addiction to the frisson of falling in love but tend to avoid the ensuing technicalities. However, he did get me thinking. The optimist in me wants to believe that his statement would be more accurate if ‘in love’ were replaced with ‘infatuated’. I like to hope that love, like a BBQ, develops over time from flammable and smoking into something more slow-burning, yet still hot. The reality tends to be an over fried lump, rendered bitter and carcinogenic.

My first encounter with The Beef (a towering giant of a man whose first name was, of course, Angus) was definitely more flame-grilled rather than braised. I like my steak seared on the outside yet blue inside and, on first inspection, this blue-blooded Sir Loin was ticking all my boxes. However, even in those heady early days, I admit to being somewhat taken aback when he instructed me to iron his shirt while he showered before going to work. Fresh out of university, I had only ever used an ironing board as a snowboard or additional space for balancing pints of White Lightening – using one as a battleground for hostile encounters with vast swathes of cotton early in the morning resulted in distinct loss of humour and loving inclinations. Each time the Beef would emerge from the shower, pluck a crumpled shirt from my clutches and scoff disdainfully at my domestic efforts, a little flame of desire would flicker and die.

One day, the Beef suggested that we visit the Goodwood Festival of Speed together. I have always appreciated beautiful cars and love going fast – preferably in something Italian – so it struck me as an excellent suggestion. This being the early noughties, my car of the moment was the TVR Cerbera (although not in the two-tone pearlescent finish – even then I had some taste). So, when it transpired that we’d drive down with some of the Beef’s TVR-equipped mates, the day just seemed to get better. However, the reality was different. My enjoyment of the three-headed dog  posse was limited to catching glimpses of their curved haunches whipping around the country roads in front of me from the bland comfort of the Beef’s grey BMW. Stopping to refuel en-route, I got chatting with one of the TVR boys, who, being a good listener and, well, not an idiot, picked up on my enthusiasm for the cars.

With hindsight, I can see that my next move was misguided: leaping impulsively into the Cerbera, I abandoned the Beef and his Beemer at the petrol station, sending him a text from his mate’s phone saying I’d see him at Goodwood. My decision was not well received. To make matters worse, I hadn’t realised that this was to be the day I would meet The Mother – a surprise Beef had hoped would be a pleasant one (although I advise against surprise mother introductions, they rarely go smoothly). Instead, she looked at her Golden Child’s thundercloud of a face and assumed, correctly, that I was to blame, resulting in an extremely awkward first (and last) encounter. Unsurprisingly, my dalliance with the Beef ground to a halt shortly afterwards. We parted on fairly good terms and I said cheerfully: “We had some fun times, didn’t we?” “Absolutely,” he responded. Then: “But you’re not exactly marriage material, are you.” Ouchie.

Although marriage was the last thing on my mind – I mean a lady needs to get a past to have  a past – I confess it stung to be told I was considered unmarriable. For a brief moment as I walked back home, I was plunged into a scene from Pride and Prejudice. There I was, an old maid unable to attract any suitors, my ample chest destined to forever heave with woe rather than passion… Then, as the Beef’s Beemer drove past me a second time (he always had a lousy sense of direction and routinely got lost), I snapped out of my tragic reverie. Yes, love is fickle. And women even more so. To be honest, I’ve lost my thread and forgotten the moral of the story of Beef. Probably just don’t make  your girlfriend iron your bloody shirts unless she offers and make sure your mates don’t have cars that are sexier than yours. That is to say, be the Beef. But don’t give us any beef.