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Are you comfortable eating alone in a restaurant?
Credit: Tim Robberts

'Would you like to wait until your whole party is here?’ asks the waitress. I want to formulate an answer that’s both casual and empowered; to tell this  ab-tastic teen in her navel-knotted Ramones tee that, ‘This is the whole party. Today it’s a party for one.’

Instead, a kind of apology drivels out. ‘Actually I’ll be dining alone,’ I say, the vowel sound echoing tragically in my head. ‘Right,’ she flings back with the kind of brisk, sympathetic smile you give chatty old women on buses. ‘I’ll bring you a menu.’

‘Bet you can’t stick it out,’ my best friend had wagered, ‘and remember you’ve got to have wine and dessert.’ That tarte Tatin was one of the least enjoyable caramel and pastry-based dishes of my life.

Never mind that I’d brought with me more props than a Rugby World Cup: the phone, the book, the pencil (for spurious annotation purposes), two newspapers and a hairband with which I...

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