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Com was born. With its new international client base, the company rode out the dot com crash like a mother. By 2004, Firebox was listed in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 as the thirteenth fastest growing privately owned business in the UK. And it was in that same year that I first met Michael, all thanks to a phone call from my friend Emily Dubberly. Emily’s name will very possibly be familiar if you are a reader of any one of the zillions of women’s magazines that Emily contributes to. She is what women’s magazines charmingly call a ‘sexpert’, and a better example of the genre you’ll struggle to find.

I can only imagine the lawyer sitting at his breakfast table, admiring his work only to scan across the page and see . . me . . underneath my gooning byline picture, sticking two fingers up at him and his stupid injunction. An injunction that the Guardian’s in-house lawyer later told me was ‘one of the most restrictive and far-reaching’ injunctions she’d ever seen. Brilliant. I did the mature thing, of course, spending the next two days hiding in my girlfriend Claire’s flat, avoiding phone calls from any number I didn’t recognise and Googling for advice on how not to get raped in the prison showers.

I laughed but did wonder for a moment whether I was in deeper than I thought. Surrounded by those white walls, with pictures of fictional people and maps of fictional places on the wall, it was almost impossible to know what was real and what was fiction. I was actually starting to get nervous, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. But in south London, in an illegal sub-let. I got a few more good quotes from Michael about the game and 53 Input Data Services Ltd 06-27-2008 09:03:37 Page 53 ORION Bringing Nothing to Party—PKY—234x153mm BRINGN0201 BRINGN Unit $$$2 B R I N G I N G N O T H I N G T O T H E PA R T Y then made my excuses and left, strangely relieved to be back in the gritty normality of south London’s muggers and ASBO kids.

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