Sunday, 11 November 2012

Is there life after divorce...? Join the debate.

Tonight, Graham Torrington of the late show on BBC radio in the Midlands, will be talking about divorce and asking: "Is there life after divorce?"

The programme is broadcast from 10pm on BBC WM, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, and BBC Hereford & Worcester.

I will be appearing on Graham Torrington's programme at 10.30.

The programme wants to hear from divorcees (men and women!), wherever you are in the UK or overseas.

Just call 08453 009956 or email

Or, you can just listen in at

Friday, 9 November 2012

New school, new mothers...

Before getting into this blog post, I think I should explain exactly what type of mother I am.

I love my children to bits.  I would do anything for them.  Should I ever meet the man of my dreams, he would have to accept me and my children as a ‘job lot’.  Where the kids are concerned, there is no compromise.  They will always come first.

However, I am not a helicopter mother. I have no desire to get involved in endless school activities, competitive cake baking, or anything else that involves mothers becoming overly and unnecessarily involved.

That said, I wouldn’t want my kids to be excluded from any social activities, because I can’t be bothered to get involved.  And so, when I was invited to go out and meet the local mothers from my son’s new school, I was more than happy to go.  After all, Mums nights out at the previous school were usually a bit of a riot – but I realised that the new school has a very different dynamic!

Finally, the day arrived.  I openly admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it.  It was my ‘night off’ when the kids are at their Dad’s and quite frankly, I would rather have been going out with friends.  Without wishing to sound harsh, I had met a few nice parents at the school, but, to be frank, most of them seemed… well… a little dull!!!

I arrived at the Tapas Bar 20 minutes late.  I figured that if I was a little late, I could just sneak in at the end of the table, everyone would have had a glass of wine, have loosened up a bit, and maybe, if I was lucky, we would have a fun evening.

In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined how the evening would go!

When I walked into the tiny restaurant, there was barely any audible conversation.  It felt like a funeral wake.  A bunch of women, who I realized were ‘my group’ were sitting around a long table.  Not a bottle of wine was to be seen.  Everyone seemed to be drinking…. water!  I kid you not. 

As I sat down at the end of the table, a very bossy officious woman handed me a marker pen and sheet of sticky labels. 

Without so much as introducing herself, she demanded that I:

“Write your name and your child’s name on it!”

I did as I was told.  And then I stuck the sticker on my top.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to sit around displaying my name on a sticky label – but I know it’s been a very long time!

Having introduced myself to the mothers nearest to me, everything went very quiet.  I was beginning to think it was going to be a very, very long evening.

Finally, someone at the other end of the table made the radical suggestion that we might order a glass of wine.  A few brave mothers suggested that maybe they’d have ‘a glass’.  And just as I was about to scream:

“For God’s sake, bring me a bottle and a straw!” some sensible woman suggested that we should just get a bottle of red and a bottle of white.

I could bore you with tales of the conversation – but will limit myself to my two favourites.

Bossy Woman, (the one with the labels!), having banged on about how important it is to learn Latin (I bit my lip!), actually started to speak in Latin.  It was so pretentious and surreal, that I thought maybe someone had spiked my drink and I was just hallucinating!

And secondly, the very tall, extremely attractive, skinny mother, who didn’t look like she had even half a pound to loose, refused to eat and spent at least 15 minutes telling us all about her diet.  I’m sure you can imagine how irritating, not to mention boring, that is, for women who are clearly not built in quite the same mould!!

Then, as abruptly as she had handed me the sheet of stickers, Bossy Woman stood up and announced that the evening was over.  (By which she actually meant that she was going home!).

A few other mothers left at the same time and the rest of us, whilst hardly having a wild time, did have a nice chat for a short while, whilst finishing our drinks.

As I stepped back into my house, the night still young, and me still sober, I consoled myself that I had done ‘the right thing’ and would at least wake up without a hangover. 

On reflection, it made me laugh to myself that there has been no rush to organize another night out! 

I did my bit, behaved myself, and most importantly, my child knows that I went for him!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Rebound Guy - RIP

Two weeks ago, as I was running home from the school drop off, in the crisp sunny autumn weather, I received a somewhat unexpected phone call. It was Jimmy, a colleague of ‘The Rebound Guy’, whom I have not spoken to for at least a year.

 I realised straight away that he could only be calling because something had happened – and my gut was telling me it had to be bad.

I was right.

 “I had to call you.” He said. “I really thought you should know.”

 He went on to explain that RG had had two brain haemorrhages. The second one had put him in a critical condition, in intensive care.

 “He’s dying Lara. It’s just a matter of time.”

 The whole thing seemed surreal. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I wandered around all day not quite knowing how I felt about it. Then finally, that afternoon at 5pm, as I was driving back from school, he called again.

 “I’m sorry Lara. They did a brain stem scan earlier, and there was no activity. So the family decided to switch off the life support. He’s dead. I’m so sorry.”

 The chit chat of my youngest son seemed to disappear into the background. I struggled to concentrate on not rear-ending the car in front, whilst trying to absorb what I had just been told.

 I have never had such a strange mixture of emotions. Having separated on such bad terms, I had had no plans or desire to see him ever again. But that was, largely, within my control. His death, and the fact that I no longer had a choice in the matter, was very confusing.

 If I had had the chance to see him before he died, what would I have said? Would it make any difference? Would it generate an apology from him for his bad behaviour? Would I have forgiven him?

On reflection, I would have liked to know earlier and I would have gone to see him, although I have no idea what I would have said. The only possible explanation for going to see him would have been that I knew he was dying. I doubt I would have been able to acknowledge that to him, because he may not have been aware of it himself. And in the unlikely event he had apologised for his behaviour, would I have forgiven him? Yes, of course. If someone is genuinely sorry, I could never hold a grudge.

Over the course of the next week, I was very distracted thinking about it. Jimmy called me again to tell me the details of the funeral and I spent the next two weeks agonising about whether to go.

Finally, I decided that going to the funeral was the ‘right’ thing to do. And I didn’t want to regret afterwards that I hadn’t gone.

Jimmy offered to pick me up on the way. He turned up in his van (!), wearing a very smart suit. The whole thing seemed quite comical – and after I’d teased him about dusting my seat before I got in, we had quite an honest and entertaining conversation on the way to the crematorium.

When we arrived, there were a lot of his Italian relatives in attendance. I couldn’t help but comment to Jimmy that it looked like the cast of The Godfather.

As we went into the chapel, it struck me that he would have been really pleased at the number of people who had turned up to see him off. It was a strange mix of people and I was amused to note that so many of them were clearly wondering who everyone else was.

The service was humanist – which was only befitting his staunchly anti-Catholic views – and the minister (if that’s what you call them) summed up his life perfectly:

He was a larger than life character who had lived life hard. He was highly intelligent, had a wicked sense of humour, could be brilliant company, was a talented artist and had an incredible eye for detail. In his work, he was a perfectionist. He also had a very dark side, he was controlling, had an evil, sometimes violent temper, was a terrible parent and his chaotic childhood had left him unable to function in any relationship.

But - he was a one off.

After a brief ceremony, the curtains closed around the coffin and we all filed out. Whilst I felt deep sympathy for his sisters and his son, I couldn’t help but feel that somehow, given the chaotic way he lived his life, dying so suddenly and at such a young age, was his ‘get out of jail free’ card.

Being the glass half full type that I am, despite all the chaos he caused me, I have to thank him for giving me the courage to leave a failed marriage. And if there is any kind of existence after death, I hope that he has been set free.

It’s hard to explain how all the chaos and trauma of my divorce were entwined with the relationship I had with him. In the back of my mind, I had always had a terrible fear of his reappearing at an inopportune moment and dredging up all those horrible feelings.

As Jimmy drove me home after the service it struck me that strangely, I felt set free too.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

My Olympic Summer

For those of you who so kindly take the time to read my blog, I apologise for the rather long absence.

My excuse…? Well, to be honest, there isn’t an excuse per se – I’ve just been incredibly busy, thoroughly enjoying the Olympics and having a fantastic time with my kids and friends.

In addition, I think I have been suffering ‘blog fatigue’. And rather than write a whole pile of nonsense, I decided it would be better to abstain from blogging until the writers’ block dislodged itself.

My kids are now off on holiday with their father, which has given me time for reflection after the hectic first few weeks of the school holidays. I have been thinking about how different I feel this summer, compared to last year. I miss the kids a great deal, but last year, in their absence, I felt quite alone. This year, I am struggling to find enough time to spend on my own. I’m not complaining, quite the opposite, I am relishing the hectic pace of life – even though I wish there were a few more hours in the day.

Before the kids went away, having got through the excitement of all the end of term events, it was no time at all until the Olympic torch was making its way almost past our house, en route to the stadium. With six kids and four adults in tow, and after 20 minutes waiting, the torch passed us in a split second. But hey! We were there and have the photos to prove it! And I hope that in years to come, the kids forget about ‘being bored’ and waiting around, and remember eating ice creams and being part of something extraordinary, that will never happen again in their lifetimes. And of course, there was the obligatory party back at my house afterwards!

During the week before the Olympics started, I was lucky enough to be invited to watch the rehearsal for the Olympic Opening Ceremony. It was a fantastic evening. I’m not especially nationalistic, but it was definitely one of those moments that made me feel proud to be British - not just because of the show that was put on, but because everyone was so well behaved and polite. There was rapturous applause for everyone taking part in the ceremony and as we left, no one pushed or shoved. No one complained about being kept waiting to get onto the tubes and trains home – everyone just felt thrilled to have been a part of the whole event.

Having failed miserably to get tickets to the Olympics, we were invited to a friend’s house two days on the trot, to watch both the men’s and women’s bike races. Quite apart from the great party my friend laid on, having such a close view of the cyclists going past and soaking up the atmosphere was fantastic. And the kids loved it!

I have never been all that interested in the Olympic Games before, but this time I am addicted. It must be the combination of my starting to do triathlons this year, the fact that it’s all taking place in my home town and having friends who are really interested in it all. I’ve downloaded the BBC Olympics App and have found myself checking the tally of medals! On my eldest’s behalf, I even worked out the ratio of Chinese to British populations, to demonstrate just how brilliantly our tiny little country is doing per capita.

Sadly, this weekend it will all be over! But then I have the kids return from their holiday to look forward to – not to mention another triathlon, which the kids are coming to watch me compete in. So I am making the most of the kids absence to train hard and get some really boring jobs done at home – with the TV on in the background, tuned into the Olympics of course.

As I cycled home from a friend’s house the other evening, using the pavement, as I had no lights on the bike, I felt an extraordinary sense of freedom and lightness. A bit like a teenager! I have one more week to relish this feeling before slipping back into my role as a responsible mother.

I think this must be the first summer holiday I have had, since the kids were school age, which is going to go by way too quickly.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Rakish Charm

Last week, my wonderful hairdresser came to chop all of our hair. I have know him for a very long time and I regard him as a fantastically kind and supportive friend.

The fact that he is a brilliant hairdresser almost becomes a moot point. But I would hate to miss the opportunity to say he is the only hairdresser in the world I would let anywhere near my tresses!

When we do get together, he always wants to hear what I’ve been up to. And being my hairdresser, I feel obliged to divulge! I honestly don’t think that there’s a lot he doesn’t know about me! But that’s the point, isn’t it? We all need someone we can trust with our deep dark secrets! Someone who never judges us, but gives us support.

And so after the initial pleasantries, by which I really mean the time it took to cut the kids’ hair, we kicked the kids upstairs and the real conversation began.

“How’ve you been?” He enquired. To which I had to admit, I’ve had a couple of rough weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with dreadful tooth pain. I rushed to the dentist (who is a friend of mine) to discover that the bash I gave my head earlier in the year did more damage than I had thought. The scar above my eyebrow may have given me a Rakish* appearance (according to a friend) but somewhat more seriously, it has damaged and killed a molar, resulting in the need for root canal work. Oh, what fun!

Whilst the dentist may be a good friend of mine, I am still terrified of going to the dentist and I felt incredibly vulnerable. In all honesty, I would rather be immersed in a vat of hot tar than “lie back and open wide” in the dentist’s chair. (Actually, that sounds a bit naughty! Ahem… I digress!). My friend Sarah has always been a complete trouper and I know she would have offered to pick me up afterwards, but I felt guilty asking.

Hell, I’m a big girl! I can get through a root canal without the need for assistance! It should come as no surprise therefore, that when an old boyfriend phoned me out of the blue and offered to look after me, I jumped at it!

He even offered to bring me a bottle of Champagne, if I promised not to be a big girl’s blouse and cry!

Well, after an hour’s horror in the dentist’s chair, we staggered over to my ex-boyfriend’s house. Despite the fact I had no feeling in one side of my face, and was dribbling, I managed to draw a glass of champagne to my lips.

Maybe it was the relief at having got through the first stage of horrific dental work, or maybe it was the combination of pain killers, alcohol and a certain sexual ‘frisson’ that still exists between us, but… I just didn’t want the afternoon to end. My friend started to worry that I would be late to collect the kids from school. But I was on a roll… I was closer to school than my own home, so I just imagined that it would only take a few moments to get there.

“It’s fine! Don’t worry!” I assured him, before realising that there was, in fact, absolutely no way I could get to school in time.

After frantically calling round a few other mothers, who might be able to collect my youngest, I staggered out of my friends flat. I didn’t have the car – and was to p*ssed to drive it anyway – and there was no way I could make it by bus. I had no option but to take a taxi.

I arrived at school, leapt out of the taxi to grab child 1, before dashing to another building to collect child 2. I would like to point out that my children were never at any risk, but I was still a little p*ssed.

Having deposited the kids with their Dad, I went out with Sarah and Running Man. I managed to get through the evening without divulging my dreadful behaviour, but on the way home, I finally confessed to my debauched state earlier in the day. Running Man was suitably amused.

“I just can’t believe you would get yourself into such a state that you would have to take a taxi, for a five minute journey, to collect your kids.” He shrieked. “What were you thinking?”

I instantly felt like a bad mother.

“But it could have been worse.” I protested.

“Worse? How?” Running Man continued.

“Well, imagine if I’d turned up with messed up hair and a glazed expression!” You know where I’m going with this, right? “He is an ex-boyfriend. And there was alcohol present. Imagine how that would have got the mothers talking!”

As the scissors snip snipped at my hair, I could hear my hairdresser chuckling to himself.

“It’s strange isn’t it? Just how much your life has changed.”

And I have to admit, I could never have guessed what a lot of fun I could have. I would love to say that I worry that I might be seen as some kind of louche mother. But the truth is…

I’m having way too much fun to care!

1. Rakish – Having or displaying a dashing, jaunty, or slightly disreputable quality or appearance.

Trim and fast-looking, with streamline angles and curves.

Oh, God! I had no idea I’d be so happy to be described as Rakish!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Porn and Sexy Ladies

Strangely, over the last week, the subject of porn seems to have risen its head a number of times. (Ooops – that sounds like some dreadful pun. But maybe I’m just being smutty!)

It started last weekend, with a small group of friends, after a couple of drinks. I have no recollection of how the conversation started, but I do remember that it ended up with two friends, one male, one female, insisting that all men look at porn.

For reasons I don’t want to get into here and now, I got upset about it. I don’t mind admitting that it is something I am very uncomfortable with. I can intellectualise it, and reason that if it’s not harming anyone involved in its production, and is only exposed to consenting adults, it should not be a problem.

But as a woman, I have to say it makes me feel cheapened. I guess it doesn’t really matter if Joe Blogs wants to look at porn, but I would be upset if a man I was involved with was looking at it. I also worry about how children view it, how it affects their attitudes to women and most of all, how scarily easy it is to access on the Internet.

Given my feelings on the subject, you can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my youngest child’s teacher.

Having reassured me that my child was not in any trouble or at risk of life or limb, she went on to explain that there had been a little ‘incident’ at school.

It transpires that two of the children in the class had noticed the cards in phone boxes, advertising the services of… well… prostitutes. One of the children (both are boys) had decided that some internet research was required.

And so, when his mother left him for five minutes to print out information for his Olympics project, he decided to do a search for “sexy ladies”. What he discovered, was undoubtedly more than any child of his age (7 yrs old) could have predicted. I did not see them myself, but I understand that they were graphic images. Nice.

The following day, having stashed his print outs into his school bag, he decided to show a couple of his class mates – with my child being one of them.

Clearly, the two children that were shown the images were shocked.

“They were totally inappropriate, Mum.” I was confidently told (by my 8 yr old). And I don’t doubt it.

They told the teacher that the child had inappropriate pictures in his bag and all hell broke loose. The child was dragged off to see the deputy head, his parents were called in and the child was left in no doubt about the seriousness of his actions.

And that’s where I started to get concerned.

Had the child done this before, and been told it was inappropriate behaviour, I would have supported the school’s actions. But as it is, he had never done this before and could not possibly have known what he was going to encounter.

So do I blame the parents? Knowing them as I do, no, I don’t. I cannot believe there is a single parent out there that hasn’t, at least once, taken their eye off the ball for just a moment. And that’s all that had happened.

When I caught up with the father of the other child that was shown the print offs, I was interested to hear him also voice his concern that the child should not be made to feel shamed. In fact, there was a part of me that could see a little glimmer of entrepreneurial spirit in his actions – although I suspect his parents have greater hopes for him than his becoming the next Hugh Heffner!

Without in any way wishing to diminish my child’s concern at what he had seen, I did find myself smiling on the way home in the car.

As I said at the outset, I do have a bit of an issue with porn. Sorry, but as a woman, I just don’t like it. But any worries I may have had, about teaching my children to be respectful of women and their bodies, seem (for the time being at least) not to be an issue.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Dating Coach or Emotionally incontinent F*ck Wit…? You decide…

We live in a mad and crazy world…

I met up with my great friend @AHLondon_Tex today.  She had cunningly arranged for the kids (hers, mine, and an assortment of others) to be ‘entertained’ elsewhere, so that we could have a good catch-up.  

Her Russian friend, Anechka, was also there.  

For background reference, Anechka is a very attractive young mother, whose husband has decided to ‘absent’ himself from her life, without giving her the courtesy of a divorce.

As a result of his two year absence, A has decided that, should a romantic opportunity present itself, she should not turn it down.

And so, a couple of weeks ago, she took herself off to the cinema alone.  On her return, she bumped into a tall, handsome English man… 

Having made eye contact, he approached her and struck up a conversation.  He explained that he lived round the corner, thought she was very attractive and asked if he could take her for a drink sometime.

She was flattered by his attention, gave him her number and suggested he give her a call.  Over the next couple of days they texted each other and arranged a ‘date’.

So far, so good…

They met in a friendly local pub and the conversation seemed to flow well.  It was at that point that she asked him what he did for a living.  To begin with, he avoided her question, which struck her as ‘odd’ and made her more curious.  She asked him again, and somewhat reluctantly, he explained that he was a ‘Dating Coach’.

I’ve heard of dating coaches before, but never actually met one.  Neither had A, who was a little surprised by this revelation.

Naturally curious, she asked him what type of people he ‘helps’.  He responded by telling her about his most recent client.  An unhappy, overweight, 22 year old ‘virgin’, with a whole ton of problems.  Apparently, he takes his ‘clients’ out on the street to help them ‘chat up’ women and get their phone numbers. 

It immediately struck me that his ‘training’ might help a 22 year old virgin get a date, but then what?  It’s not going to make him any slimmer, more attractive, help him address his personality issues, secure a second date or finally address his virginity!

But I digress…

Having been slightly stumped by the revelation that he was a Dating Coach, Anechka was more than a little alarmed when he started getting a little ‘fresh’ with her.  And when I say ‘fresh’ I really mean ‘outrageous’!  Call me quirky, but I find it a little odd that a Dating Coach would think it appropriate to stick his hand up someone’s dress on a first date.  Had he introduced himself as a ‘Get Laid Quick’ coach, I might have been less surprised.

Feeling more than a little uncomfortable and realising that the guy was actually quite dull, not to mention a pervert, A decided to make her excuses and go home. 

Over the next couple of days, there was an exchange of texts.  I have to confess, I thought it was rather forgiving of A to even speak to him again.  Then finally, the fourth day after the ‘date’, A decided to ask how the 22 year old virgin was getting on.

The reply was extraordinary.

It read:  “You said how is “your” Virgin.  This implies that said Virgin is someone important to me.  This client is not important to me and we don’t have ongoing contact.  Meeting him was not a significant event in my life.  Anechka, I did not understand your reference.  Perhaps you should consider that the fault lies with your poor use of English rather than criticising my mental faculties or integrity.”

To be brutally honest, I’ve always suspected that ‘Life Coaches’ and ‘Dating Coaches’ are not much more than pub psychologists, acting pompous and charging a fortune.  But this one seems more like a sociopath.  I’m just glad A got out of it in one piece and not after having her drink laced with Rohypnol.

It just makes me more convinced than ever that the best way to meet someone is through friends.  And if you do go on a blind date, for goodness sake go somewhere public and make sure they know exactly where you are going.

And as for ‘Dating Coaches’, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s not so much the ‘blind leading the blind’ but more ‘the emotionally incontinent guiding the f*ck wits…’  

And to think the f*ckwits have to pay for this service!

What a load of bollocks!

I’m sorry – but there really is no other word for it.  It’s bollocks!  

We live in a mad and crazy world! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The object of hatred…

This morning, my lovely postman delivered me a very interesting letter.

When I picked up the envelope, I instantly recognised the handwriting as that of my ex-mother-in-law.  My heart sank.  The last few unsolicited letters from her have been unexpected, unprovoked, unwanted and deeply unpleasant.  Actually that’s not strictly true.  Her letters have been deeply offensive and threatening.

I had a dreadful ‘sinking’ feeling as I opened the envelope.  It seemed to contain reams of paper.  She has a bizarre habit of sending me printed copies of the e-mails that she has sent to my ex-husband, accompanied by offensive letters addressed to me.

I am fully aware that my ex-husband has all but moved his new girlfriend into his flat.  By all accounts, she is nice to my children and my ex’s behaviour is much better towards the kids when she’s around.  I have no desire to meet her, but I have positive feelings about her.  But more significantly (given their behaviour) I am aware that she has been introduced to my ex-parents in law. 

Throughout the time I spent with my ex-husband, I was subjected to some exceptionally bad behaviour by my in-laws.  Being objective about it, it seemed clear to me that the abuse was not personal to me (they barely know me, as we have spent so little time together).  Their problem was that they saw me as the woman who had ‘stolen’ their son - as as such, I was the object of their hatred!

So when I heard that the ex had introduced his new girlfriend, I did wonder how long it would be before she become the new focus for their dreadful behaviour.  And I wondered whether they would then leave me alone and focus their venom on the new incumbent.

And so, back to the letter…

Just as predicted, they have decided that they don’t like the new girlfriend.  They have sent their son a letter outlining their reasons for disliking her and told him that she is not welcome in their home. 

He has replied in defence of her and told them that conversely, she thinks highly of them (that bit made me laugh out loud!).  He has also told them that he will not tell his girlfriend what they have said, as he does not want to tarnish her view of them (he doesn’t need to, they do that very well by themselves!).

All of this private correspondence has been printed out by my ex-mother-in-law and posted to me with a covering letter, apologising for anything she has ever done to hurt me.  Absolutely bizarre!

Having expected to get one of her abusive letters, I had a real mixture of feelings about what I had read.

Part of me felt great pity for my ex-husband.  He did not choose his parents.  He can do nothing about their behaviour – and they are unbearable.  I also feel great sympathy for his girlfriend.  Whilst the ex-MIL did outline some rather odd behaviour on her part, there was nothing that she did that warranted them barring her from their home and making unpleasant personal remarks about her. 

I also felt a huge relief that, as predicted, the burden of their dreadful behaviour has been lifted from my shoulders.

But this was all tinged with a bit of sadness too.  To read my ex-husband’s defence of the woman he has known for such a short while, whilst knowing that he did not do the same for me, is undeniably hurtful and distressing.

I was then stumped about what to do.  In the past, I have always told the ex when I have received unpleasant letters from his parents.   But I don’t know what good would come of telling him about this latest letter.  How would it make him feel to know that I had read such personal correspondence.  No one expects a private letter, written to their parents, to be sent to probably the one person above all others that they would hate it to be sent to (in this case ME!).  What would it achieve?  Absolutely nothing but his distress. 

And so, I have decided that I should allow myself a smile and a chuckle.  I think I deserve that, having been the object of their venom for so long. 

I now feel officially ‘divorced’ from the in-laws… and let off the hook.  I feel sorry for the ex – but I feel great for me.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Being a single parent is tough…

Being a single parent is tough.  Isn’t that what they always say?  You read about it in the newspapers and in magazine articles, see it enacted in TV soaps and hear interviews on the radio discussing it.  It always seems to be accompanied by a weary sigh and a sense of hopeless resignation.

To be really honest with you, in practical terms, I can’t actually say that it’s tougher than when I was married.  My ex-husband did none of the domestic chores or kid related stuff anyway.  So on some levels, life is actually easier.  After all, there is less laundry and fewer people to feed.

That said, I do have days when things really get me down.  And the last 24 hours has been one of them. 

Over the last week, the three of us have all had a terrible stomach bug.  A really aggressive bug, which left me (somewhat embarrassingly) crashing into the wall of a friend’s house, whilst struggling to make it to her sofa to lie down.  It was only 8pm, but I was worried that they would think I was already drunk!

My friend subsequently dragged me home and put me to bed and had to come back the following morning to walk the dogs for me, as I just couldn’t get up. 

This was followed by a couple more days of feeling like death warmed up, whilst simultaneously trying to get my eldest to study for his school exams.  Not an easy feat, when you’re doing it by yourself.

But finally, I was on the mend, and the kids went back to school. 

Then yesterday, my little one came home from school with his exam results.  He is still very young and it’s a huge pressure for these children to be doing them.  As he announced his results, I could tell that he was disappointed with the Maths result.  He got a really good mark, but he was upset that he had done less well than in his previous exams. That said, his English had improved significantly and overall, he did really well.

Unfortunately, however, this wasn’t enough for his father. 

Having not seen their Dad for over a week, the little one was clearly looking forward to his mid-week visit.  He wanted to tell his Dad his exam results.  And that’s when it all started going wrong. 

That evening, I had three calls from the kids.  Firstly, the eldest was really upset because his Dad had been really foul and grumpy with him.  Then I had another call from his, just because he was feeling upset and needed to talk to his Mum.  Then I had the little one on the phone, hiding in the bathroom, to say that his Dad had told him that his results were only "acceptable" and that “he should have been getting higher marks” and that “it wasn't really good enough”.

He was so upset - and I was too.  I just wanted to drive over and collect them.... but of course, you can't can you?  

I was at a friend’s house for supper when the phone rang, which was fortunate, because I was so upset, I needed supportive friends around me. 

The situation made me feel helpless and impotent. Unable to protect my two children from someone I shouldn’t have to protect them from anyway.  And whilst trying to keep a practical head on my shoulders, I realized that I had to keep it to myself.  It’s important that the kids can phone me when they feel upset.  Alerting the ‘ex’ to their call would seriously backfire if he took away their phone.

So, sometimes it’s really very tough being a single mother.  And today is definitely one of those days.  Even my friend and Guru @AHLondon was stumped as to how to deal with the situation.  And really, seriously, she knows most things!

But I am a glass half full person and I will plough on…  I may be a single mother, and it may be tough, but I will never be a stereo type!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sometimes it’s OK to have an affair….

The last week has been manic.  Having been busy over the four days of the Jubilee (which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the terrible weather), I then had two sick kids, followed by a sick me!  Not what you need during the half term!

However, in the middle of all this frenetic activity, I was thrilled to see a text message ping through from my great friend @AHLondon_Tex, telling me that she had arrived in the UK for a visit with the kids. 

Having not seen her since Christmas time, we had plenty of catching up to do.  And we were joined by another friend of hers, that I had not met before.  As the conversation progressed, I learnt that this other woman is possibly in the most difficult situation of any woman I know.  And it has called into question the whole case of whether it’s OK to have an affair when you’re married.

In brief, this woman’s husband left her and their children, to live abroad.  He supports her and their children financially, but it is very controlled.  There is no joint bank account.  He has no assets in this country and is living a whole other life abroad.  He visits the children on a regular, but infrequent basis.

This woman came into the country as the spouse of someone who was working here.  She does not work herself and to my knowledge, does not have a work permit – besides which, she is the full time carer for her children. 

Her husband does not want and will not grant her a divorce.  He is effectively keeping her a ‘prisoner’ in her marriage.  If she goes to divorce lawyers, she has no way of paying them.  She is not familiar with English matrimonial law and knows that if she does try and divorce her husband, it will be outright warfare.

She has, on one level, resigned herself to the impossibility of the situation.  But she is a young, beautiful woman.  She has every right to find happiness and another relationship.  Nevertheless, she is also a married woman and she fears that in her circumstances, no one would be interested in her. 

I felt quite flummoxed when she explained her situation.  I do not know anything about international law – so I was completely unable to help on that front.  But I have no doubt in my mind, given her circumstances, that she should be allowed to have another relationship, married or not. 

Clearly, she too feels that having been ‘left’ and knowing her husband has created a whole new life for himself, she should be allowed to ‘find someone’.  But she seemed to feel paralysed by the thought that any ‘decent’ man would not want to get involved.

And on this point, I really sympathise.  Do decent men engage in relationships with married women?  Do they take the circumstances into consideration and treat each case on its merits?

What’s the answer to this conundrum? 

Well, I realise that there will be men out there who just wouldn’t want to get involved in what they might regard as a very complicated situation.  And I believe in honesty being the foundation stone of any relationship - so there has to be full disclosure at some point. 

But maybe that’s just the thing….  It’s all in the timing and being clear in her own head about how she presents her situation to a potential boyfriend. 

I realise that this situation is more complicated than the norm.  However, for anyone embarking on a relationship, following a marriage breakdown, we all have ‘stuff’ which needs to be disclosed at some time, but maybe not on day one. 

I do have a terrible habit of saying too much.  It stems from a deeply rooted need to be open and honest…  But I have had to learn that sometimes, at the very early stage of a relationship, when you’re just trying to find out whether you like someone, there are things that can wait to be said.

I would never normally encourage someone to get involved in a relationship when they are still married.  But in this case, I really hope she does.  She is a beautiful young woman who has every right to find happiness.  

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Secret Life of a Divorcee – One year on

I can hardly believe that it has now been a year since I was sitting in my kitchen with my laptop, nervously writing my very first post for this blog.

At the time, the ink on my divorce papers was not even dry, I had ended the terrible re-bound relationship I’d been in and I was very scared about what the future had in store.  I felt isolated, very lonely and terrified at the prospect of being alone, for the first time in almost 20 years.

I set up my blog because I wanted other women, who found themselves in the same position as me, to know that they were not alone.  But what I never imagined was that so many MEN would find my blog and get in touch with me, sharing stories of very similar experiences.  That was probably the biggest bonus I could ever have had and I feel very flattered that they have felt able to share their personal stories with me.

And now, here I am.  One year on.  And what has changed?

I’m still single.  But the difference is, I don’t mind it!  I’m not saying I ‘like’ it.  But I’m OK with it.  Society expects us to be part of a ‘couple’.  If we’re single for any length of time, it starts to question what’s ‘wrong’ with us.  Well, here’s the thing…  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I just know what it’s like to be with the ‘wrong’ person.  When Mr Right turns up, it will be a different matter!

Am I still lonely?  I have my moments – but I have become so busy with new friends and a very different social life, that I now have days when I want to turn invitations down, so I can have a quiet evening alone.  A year ago, I was terrified of being alone.

Is it scary to go out on my own?  No, it is no longer daunting to go out socially by myself.  I used to be very nervous of meeting new people and going to parties or events alone.  I just felt conspicuous – and I had to adjust to being ‘the divorcee’, which many married women see as a threat.  And it used to feel really weird going home alone. I was scared that if anything happened to me, no one would find out until the school wondered why the kids hadn’t been collected.  But now it doesn’t bother me – and for someone who is as shy as I am, that’s a big deal.

What impact has writing this blog had on me?  Well, from the e-mails and messages I’ve had through the blog, I have realised just how ‘normal’ I am.  I have always believed that you should be ‘loyal’ to your husband when you are married.  As a result, I never talked to anyone about the issues I had with my ex-husband during our marriage.  The net result was that I felt like I was alone, that my issues were unique.  But they’re not.  My ex-husband belittled me constantly and made me feel useless and unattractive.  I now realise and accept that the problem was with him, not me.

In addition, I have been taken aback by the kindness of strangers and had my eyes opened to the very many shades of grey that there are in life.  I have always been a bit of a cynic with a very black or white view of the world.  I am now slightly less cynical, less judgemental and able to see there are many shades of grey.

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you will have noticed that I have not posted for over a week.  I’ve been thinking long and hard about my blog and the direction in which I want it to go.  I’ve even considered whether it has run its course.  It has certainly been cathartic and helped me air my feelings.  But am I done yet? 

I asked a few people whether I should wind it up – and I was really flattered that they genuinely seemed to think I shouldn’t.

So for the time being, I’m going to continue.  But before I go on, I just want to thank a few people who have made a big difference to my life over the last year.

It’s always hard when you start to thank people who have helped along the way.  There are so many people who have helped me, just by reading my blog and giving positive feedback.  But in particular, I would like to thank (in no particular order!):

AH London
The “Two Robs”!
Pommie Knight
Running Man
& last, but by no means least….

Blind Date Man

Thank you for all your kindness and support!

Lara Lakin

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An embarrassing encounter

When I got up and looked in the mirror this morning, it was as I had feared.  Between my nose and top lip, I have a big red angry graze. And as strange as it may sound, I felt I would rather tell someone I got stubble rash in a random encounter with a stranger, than admit to why it is that I have a graze above my top lip.

My brother mistakenly thought it was eczema.  I was Skyping him, so that was easy to pull off!  But I’m not sure that I’ll be able to pull it off with everyone else.  School run won’t be a problem.  I’ll just stay in the car and wave through the window, and they’ll send the kids out.

You’d have thought that my face had taken enough battering this year, what with my smashing my head on concrete and giving myself two black eyes.. but oh, no…

Gay friend Julian has been on the phone in tears of laughter – and has promised to come over later to have a closer inspection, before having another good laugh at me. 

Even he admitted that despite looking like his head has been boot polished, he too would rather admit to stubble rash from a random sexual encounter, than what I did to myself!!!!

Finally, at lunch time, I met Running Man in the park.  Unlike Julian, RM was a bit more polite.  He did that very ‘British’ thing that I do too.  He pretended not to have noticed. 

Why do we Brits to it?  Why do we like to ignore the elephant in the room?  And why do I have some weird need to explain myself? 

I decided that there was no way that I could go running for an hour and not mention the bloody great red marks on my face!  So I hit it head on.

“Have you seen the mess I’ve made of my face?” I enquired.

“Well, I didn’t want to say anything.”  He replied. “But, yes!  What the hell did you do?”

And so I confessed.  In vain hope I begged him to promise not to tell everyone I know…  but frankly, I’m not that hopeful…!

“Tell them it was a random sexual encounter, tell them ANYTHING – but DON’T TELL THEM that I had a bit of bother trying to wax the fuzz on my top lip!” 

“Moustaches are very ‘in’ this season!” he quipped.  “Have you thought of wearing a novelty moustache to hide it?”  

Ha bloody ha! 

My attempts to try and maintain my appearance went horribly wrong, when I used the wrong waxing strips on my top lip.  The wax was thick and gooey, and just bloody stuck to me.  In my desperate attempts to get it off, I managed to remove a few layers of skin, leaving myself bleeding, sore and down right embarrassed.

But why do I feel so embarrassed?  Why should something like waxing your top lip – a thing that women the world over do on a regular basis – be something I’m so desperate to hide?  And am I alone?  I really doubt it.

It’s all about mystique isn’t it?  Wanting to create a perfect image of ourselves, where we don’t have hairy legs or a bit of fuzz on the top lip.

It’s a symptom of our society.  Wanting to kid everyone that our lives are perfect. 

But our lives never are.  And they would be so much happier and easier if we could just relax and ‘let it go’ a bit.

Strangely, confessing to Julian and Running Man was the worst and best thing I could do.  It had a very cathartic effect.  Maybe it was just the endorphins released when laughing our heads off – or maybe by ‘letting it go’ a bit and admitting that I’m human, just like everyone else, I felt released from the pressures and constraints of ‘womanhood’. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hair transplants and knocking shops….

And so, finally, he’s back!

My dear friend Julian has been to-ing and fro-ing from his Mum’s house for the last month, because his Aunt is very ill.  So I haven’t seen very much of him for a while.

But yesterday, his message pinged through asking if I was free for a coffee at 11am!  He appeared at the door looking slightly odd, before he explained that he had finally done it… He’s decided to have a hair transplant. 

Now I’ll be honest, there was a little bit of me that wanted to laugh.  Not because of his decision, but mostly because Julian is fair, and they had painted a hairline onto his head with some strange dark substance, which, to be honest, looked a bit like boot polish.  And considering his mirth at discovering me in the garden a couple of weeks ago, with my arm up to the shoulder down a blocked drain, it’s definitely my turn to have a giggle!

It’s easy for us girls to laugh about something that does not often affect our gender – but for men it is a big issue.  I know so many men who are terrified of loosing their hair.  If he’s prepared to stump up the cost and go through the pain of the procedure, why shouldn’t he?  You go for it J!!!

Well, having explained the whole ‘hair transplant’ situation, J then had me in stitches recounting what had happened to his mother last week. 

Julian’s mother owns a beauty salon.  Business has been very quiet recently, so when she received an unusual request, she said ‘yes’ when on another occasion, she might have declined.

The caller was a man.  He was very concerned about ‘discretion’.  He wanted to be sure that the ‘treatment’ he required could be done in a private room.  J’s mother assured him that he would of course have a private room and that they would be discreet. 

It transpires that the caller wanted to have full makeup applied. 

Now I’m no prude.  I understand that people sometimes want to do these sort of things.  And if they want to do it at home, or somewhere that caters specifically for this type of thing, then I don’t see that it is anyone else’s business.  But J’s mother runs a beauty salon – and if I’d been her, I’d have been very concerned. 

But J’s mother is a very broadminded woman with a gay son – so she was un-phased and booked him in.

On the day itself, a tall, fat, bald man turned up, with a bag containing a dress and shoes.  Having been shown into the private treatment room by one of J’s mum’s employees (Emma) he changed into his dress and Emma helped him style his wig.

With wig and dress in place, Emma went on to apply false eyelashes and full makeup.  So far so good…  but of course, this was the point at which it all started to get a bit… well… ‘dodgy’. 

It has to be noted that Emma is a very nice girl, but she sure ain’t the sharpest tool in the box!

 The next request was that Emma take a photo of him on a rather old, battered looking mobile phone.  But before she took the picture he asked whether she would mind just tying his hands to the back of the chair! 

Without batting an eyelid, Emma cheerily did exactly what he asked and took the photo. 

Now, maybe it’s just me, but on hearing this story, I couldn’t help but think it was a bit ‘odd’ that a man who is so concerned about ‘discretion’ – ie, not getting found out, should want photographic evidence!  But I digress…

Photo taken, he then requested that he be left alone, tied to the chair, for an hour.

It just happened that J’s mother was busy with another client at this point, oblivious to what was going on, as Emma cheerily obliged and left the man on his own.

Finally, the ‘session’ was over, the man was untied, and Emma took off all his makeup and led him to the till to pay.

It was at this point that J’s mother appeared.  The man was £50 short.  He refused to pay anything other than cash – as his wife would see any payments on his bank cards.  After a heated debate, J’s mother realised that her options were simple:  call the police, or tell him to leave and never come back again!

She decided on the latter and watched in bemusement as he hurriedly drove off in an expensive car, dress and shoes on the seat next to him.  

The prospect of what might have happened if she’d called the police was only just beginning to sink in.  Imagine trying to explain to the police what had just happened at a respectable beauty salon!  Quite apart from having to convince them that you’re not running a ‘knocking shop’, imagine if the local press got hold of the story.  It could have ruined her business and reputation.

As J and I recovered from fits of laughter at the whole incident, J patted the new stubble growing back on his head.  And with a thoughtful look he said:

“I know people think gay men do weird things, and I know I look like I’ve got boot polish on my head, but some married men do the strangest things.”

Fair point.  

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