Ever wanted to apologise for something but don’t know where to start? In a regular series where our writers atone for their past sins, Margaret Cabourn-Smith is sorry for the time she let her duffel-coated self down.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.


I was around 18 but arrogantly felt like I’d found my place in the world. I was a bit gobby, but fun – and ultimately happy with that role in my group of mates. I don’t want to sound maudlin but I was used to being overlooked by boys. My female friends were prettier, sexier, and often ‘paired up’ with boyfriends.

Although I had pangs, and often fell in melodramatic love with male friends, I was 21 before I persuaded one to become anything more. I met you a few years before that. My usual gang was in the pub. I heard a friendly comment from behind me. Turning round, I was surprised to see an unknown, pretty Indieboy of similar age.

It was literally a fantasy come true; I was baffled. I looked around to see if you were talking to someone else. You smiled encouragingly. In my memory, you knew you were out of my league but you didn’t act it, which further confused me.

I can’t remember what was said but I know you were charming and funny and I was… if not openly hostile, a bit abrupt. A bit sardonic. See, I was convinced I was being mocked, somehow.

I looked round at your two friends to see if they were laughing into their pints but they seemed to be engrossed in their own conversation, not playing ‘pull-a-pig’ like I assumed.

It was quite near the end of the night and as people gathered their stuff and began to drift off to the bus stop, you did something I’ll never forget. You helped me into my duffel coat (of COURSE I had a duffel coat). Not in a pervy or even faux chivalrous way, but weirdly tenderly.

You did a silly, jokey commentary; pretending I was a kid. I know, it doesn’t sound sexy – and it wasn’t really. But it was lovely. Sweet. I may have laughed along a bit, but ultimately, I was always going to go home alone, with no exchange of numbers.

I just couldn’t get my head round what was happening. I regularly thought about it. I’m sad how long it took me to believe it. You were chatting me up. It was that simple. I’m not really apologising to you – you were the one with the looks, wit and relaxed charm – I’m sure you never gave me another thought. I’m apologising to me. I let me down and I’m sorry.


Find out what other past crimes our writers would like to atone for here.

Enjoyed this? Help Standard Issue keep going by joining our gang. Click here to find out how.

  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.