My last day in the Northeast. Kim and my sister and I, sat on a beach, eating tomates à la sable. The rain started as soon as we'd got there. We repaired to the local micropub where Kim's ill-tempered little dog snarled at every other member of its species. It wasn't an entirely relaxed evening. Three is an awkward number, and I felt like a conference facilitator at times. It would have been better to see them separately.

I arrived in Bristol and met my landlord at my new house. There was a slow moment of staring at each other. I thought he looked younger and I wasn't sure if it was even the same man who had shown me round his profitably neglected house a couple of weeks ago. I wondered if he was having a similar slippage of memory.

I was hoping that I'd misremembered the clasped, padlocked doors to our rooms, but I hadn't. We signed contracts and we had a falsely matey moment when he shared the URL for a site through which you can watch the Test Match.

I looked round my stark room. No lampshade, no shelves, no chair, no table, and the promised crockery and cutlery hadn't materialised. The curtains, as I discovered later, are too short, so the light from the street lamp stands in my room all night. The kitchen is tiny -- a converted corridor. The garden is a dumping ground for rusting bits of car and redundant gym equipment, crowding round a cherry tree and an apple tree, the latter with fecund, edible fruit. There is no living room; that too, in the endless rapacity of the landlord, is let out.

I arrayed some photographs -- me and Kim, the girls when they were toddlers, and in their teenage years -- and the little knitted creatures Kitty gave me for Christmas, and felt forlorn. I wanted my mum.

I briefly met two of my housemates. One, an organising Saffie; another a scrap metal merchant and house clearance man whose bearing betrays the constant low-level paranoia of the committed stoner. I knew straight away that we will have little to do with each other.

But it's a start. Now I'm here, I can look round for somewhere better. Before then I can soften and feminise it: fairy lights, lamps. I have relocated a mug from our training centre, and taken an unwanted wicker loom chair from outside someone's house. I hope to abandon myself to the sensual luxuries of a plate and some crockery soon.

I like the area. It's a blacker city than Lancaster, more properly multi-cultural. On my second night I went out dancing till 3am in an artfully scruffy pub, to a night of first rate disco and funk, not a Gloria Gaynor track for miles around. A friendly, aggro-free crowd, and -- always a good sign -- plenty of women.

We've been in Swindon all week so far, sitting through one of those "corporate inductions" that appear to be job creation schemes for people who love the sound of their own voices. Several short films about values, the future, people being our greatest asset, and clips of smiling female receptionists looking up in slow motion, children holding teddies looking out of the window. But our commute is included in our hours at work, which means I'm getting paid to read for eighty minutes a day. (Donna Tartt's The Secret History, in which I am engrossed.) It was intermittently interesting: there were over a thousand applications for eighteen jobs. We were given modern phones, and I had to keep asking a young person to rescue me from a wrongly-pressed button.

My eldest has been teaching on a summer activity course for teenagers, many of whom were Chinese. At the end she and her fellow teacher performed a version of a song from the musical Mamma Mia for them. "How did it go?" I asked. "Brilliant," she said. "Although it's easy to impress the Chinese. Sing a song banned in their own country and show some emotion."

I've decided to see a prostitute, or call girl, as I will deflectingly call her. In a sadly comical coincidence, she shares Wendy's name. It's quite a liberating decision. Not having to advertise myself any more. She has a swish flat in the city centre. £70 for half an hour, so it'll have to be a rare treat. It was a turn-on describing in an email what I would like to happen, and I read and re-read it back to myself. I was excited when I got in from work to see a message from her, which I hoped would go over my plans in detail, but her reply was simple. "Yes, of course I can see you. Ring me the day before please x."