Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Should a woman propose marriage…?

As I rolled out of bed at 7am this morning, I heard a text message ping through on my phone.

The message, from Blind Date Man, read:  “Morning Lara.  You lost your phone?  I have had no proposal from you this morning!”

It’s the 29th of February today.  The day that traditionally, a woman is allowed to ask a man to marry her. 

I chuckled to myself before sending the reply:  “Hahaha!  I don’t believe in girls asking… Even on 29th February.”

As I drove back from the school run I started thinking about the time, many years ago, when I was proposed to.  It was a very happy time in my life.  I’d found the man I believed was to be my partner for life and when he ‘popped the question’ I burst into tears, barely able to get even a ‘yes’ out of my mouth.

And it was at around that age that various friends, who had been in relationships for a few years, started wondering whether their partner was going to be the one they marry.

I am sure that there will be notable exceptions, but on the whole, I honestly believe that if a man really wants to marry someone, he’ll ask.  And if he’s not asking… it’s because he’s just not that interested, but happy to continue ‘having his cake and eating it’.  And this was most certainly the case with my friend Louise. 

Louise met her boyfriend shortly after he’d broken up with a long-standing live-in girlfriend. He was clearly still besotted by her and whilst he took the decision to start seeing Louise, it was obvious that his feelings for her were not in the same league. 

Unfortunately, Louise was besotted.  And in addition to being besotted, she was getting parent pressure to get married before being ‘left on the shelf’.  After a year of dating and no proposal, Louise decided to take matters into her own hands.  Having been given notice to leave her flat, she put immense pressure on him to let her move in.  He conceded.  When six months had passed and there was still no proposal, she threatened to leave him unless they got engaged.  After several weeks of arguments, he finally conceded.

Five years and two kids later, she discovered her husband had been having an affair with his secretary for over a year.  He cleared out their bank accounts, moved out of the matrimonial home, and left her high and dry. 

Being a divorcee myself, I can hardly claim that ‘I got it right’ and Louise ‘got it wrong’.  But my marriage lasted more than three times as long and I don’t regret it.  And the crucial point, is that when we got married, we both wanted to. 

I have given Louise’s situation as an example, but I know many more women who have put enormous pressure on their loved one to get married.  Some have blackmailed men into it.  Others have ‘accidentally got pregnant’.  And then of course there are those whose parents have involved themselves to apply pressure.  With few exceptions, it has ended catastrophically. 

I honestly think that the best chance any marriage has of turning out to be happy and last, is where the couple have taken the traditional approach.  This is not because I think that a woman shouldn't be allowed to ask.  It's purely because on the whole, men are far more resistant to commitment than women.  When a couple fall in love and when the man feels ready and confident that he has found the ‘right’ woman - in my experience, he will ask her to marry him.

I guess that this sounds old fashioned and ‘romantic’.  Well, it is.  With all the external pressures that there are on a marriage, in addition to the daily grind of life, the demands of small children and related strain on finances, a marriage has got to have very strong foundations.

As I sit here today, a single woman with kids, marriage is not something I need to worry about.  But it is something I would like to have another stab at. 

Well, maybe I should have a pact with Blind Date Guy that if, in four years’ time, we are both still at a loose end, maybe on the next 29th February I will concede and ask him to marry me!  But then again, maybe I won’t.  The fear of being alone is never a good reason to marry someone - and I will never ask.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The best laid plans...

This week has not gone according to plan.

Like the best laid plans, it all started out soooo well…!

On Tuesday morning, I took the kids to school, raced home, wrote the day’s blog post, confirmed that Sarah was still free to meet at lunch time to help me with some work and set off with the dogs for my run.

And then…. Half way round the circuit, I crossed over some concrete, tripped, stumbled, tried to recover my balance, and then went flying. As I tried to roll onto the ground to break the fall, rather than have half my body grazed on the rough surface, my head whiplashed onto the ground.

I lay there for some time, completely dazed. I was fully aware that the force with which my head had hit the ground was quite significant.

The first words that went through my head were: “Shit, oh shit, oh my god, shit, I’m in trouble.”

The next ones were: “Shit, oh shit, how am I going to get home?”

I felt confused, dizzy and frightened. As I gingerly dragged myself to my feet, I saw that there was a little house nearby and the owner’s car was parked outside. Thank god. Someone to help me. Unfortunately, after ringing the doorbell twice, no one came out.

I frantically tried to phone a friend – but got no answer. I knew Sarah was in her exercise class, so she wouldn’t hear her phone. And then… one of the myriad dog walkers drove into the adjoining car park.

I cannot describe the relief I felt when this tiny old lady took me under her wing. She helped me into her van, loaded my dogs in, and drove me back to my car. In my confused state, I drove the very short distance home. In retrospect, not a great move. But no harm done!

I arrived home, managed to get hold of Sarah, and clambered into the shower to wash the dirt off my face, leg and bleeding hand.

By the time Sarah had arrived, I had a lump on my head the size of an egg. And we’re talking extra large freerange chicken egg!

Sarah bundled me into her car and drove me to hospital. The receptionist was suitably impressed. “Wow, that’s the biggest bump I’ve ever seen.” She commented.

I was seen by the doctors within 15 minutes. You know you’re in trouble when the A&E department is full, you are the last to arrive and first to be seen!

The doctor was fantastic and did a tonne of tests. Despite being unable to stand up quickly without feeling dizzy and wobbling, I kept apologising for being there! (I really am a ‘Brit’ through and through!). The doctor assured me that I’d had a very nasty bump and did need to get it checked out!

Having assured him I could stand, he led me by the elbow, very slowly, to the X-ray department. Whilst I waited to have my head X-amined (so to speak!), I heard the charming and delightful lilting tones of Lorraine Kelly! I can confirm that despite being incapacitated by a neck brace and being strapped down to a stretcher, she was as cheery and friendly to the staff looking after her as you see on your TV screens!

Little did she know that she was in the presence of epic Blogger Lara Lakin! I decided not to tell her, as I felt she’d probably had enough excitement for one day!

Fortunately, the X-ray showed no sign of any fracture and on the promise that I would not at any point be left on my own, until eight hours after the accident, I was allowed home.

By this stage, my head was thumping. I was tired. I felt like I’d done five rounds with Mike Tyson. And I just wanted to get home.

Sarah came back to collect me and took me home. I realise that I’m not the easiest patient… I tried to do all the things she was trying to do for me, and wouldn’t go to bed like I was told! I think I was just in total denial!

The kids finally got back from school and were deeply upset when they saw me. Really, it’s not a pretty sight! To make them feel better and as it was pancake day, Sarah very kindly made them pancakes for tea. She even brought me some in bed!

Finally, when the kids had settled down, Sarah went home. The kids had been briefed: If anything happens to Mum in the night, call Sarah, call Grandpa and call 999.

Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary. I woke with the blackest eye ever seen, a sore hip, shoulder and hand. But nothing that won’t mend.

Tomorrow will be Friday and already I’m bored of explaining to everyone why I look so horrific! But I am eternally grateful to the lovely dog walker who got me back to the car; to Sarah for getting me to hospital and back, feeding my kids and looking after the world’s worst patient; the staff at the hospital for taking such good care of me; and to Julian and Date Guy, whose phone calls and messages to check up on me and make sure I’m OK, have made me feel cared about.

And on that note, as I have a big black eye and ache all over, I’m off to bed and grateful to have such good friends.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I was thinking about writing a post on ‘the Top 10 Things I’ve done since I got divorced’.  But then I wondered whether I could actually muster 10 things for the list. 

As I sat down and started bashing it out on the laptop, I was amazed at how quickly I reached my target!  And that, in turn, made me realise quite how far I’ve come. 

For those people out there (and I mean both men and women) who are going through the recovery after divorce, I would highly recommend writing a list of 10 things to do.  Things you used to enjoy doing, but your other half didn’t; seeing people you liked or worked with, but your other half didn’t; stuff that reminds you of who you used to be… which is, in fact, without the influence of that ‘other person’, who you really are.

Some of these things might seem really small.  But the fact you’ve even written them down, means they’re important!

So here is my list…


When I told friends that I was going to get a new dog for the kids, so that they could have the experience of raising a puppy, I was amazed that a number of people told me they thought it was a bad idea!  

“Are you sure this is the right time?” they said.

“Isn’t it a dreadful tie?”

“What if you go away?  People don’t want a puppy chewing their furniture and peeing on the floor.”

There is never a ‘right time’.  The kids were desperate for a puppy.  So I got one.  The kids love her, I love her, and she is the best company in the world when I’m on my own. 


I have always wanted to do a parachute jump or a marathon.  But the fact is, my life insurance would be void if I threw myself out of a plane, and I can’t justify doing something that, if it went wrong, would leave my kids without a mother. 

I’ve also tried training for a marathon.  But when I’ve tried to increase the distances I’ve run, I start getting problems with my knee and Achilles tendon.

So when it was suggested that I do a low key, beginners’ triathlon, I realised that this was the answer.

I am now ‘in training’ and will be competing in my first event at the end of April!

I have never played poker before, but this Friday, a group of us will be sitting round my kitchen table playing Five Card Blind!  

Yeah! I may not have played before, but I’ve done my research!


It’s important to remind yourself of who you were before you met your ex.  People you knew before you met him, but have lost touch with, still remember and will treat you as you were.  And I’ve been amazed at how kind and supportive people can be. 


When I gave up work to look after my first child, I found it very lonely being on my own at home.  I missed the ‘buzz’ of the office.  But as the kids grew up and became more intellectually demanding, I started to really enjoy the peace of being alone.  After all, at the end of the day, I would have another adult walk in through the door. 

When you’re on your own at home all day and evening, it is a different ball game…  So watch all those movies you never watched because they ex didn’t like them.  Enjoy cooking food that the ex didn’t like.  And if you’re feeling lonely… phone a friend!


I love cooking.  And now that the kids are at the age where they can weigh and measure ingredients without pouring half of them on the floor, it’s started being fun, not just a mess! 

I also drag the kids out to take the dogs for a walk.  It means they can’t play mindless computer games and we do that thing called:  “Having a conversation.”!


I realise that ‘going on a blind date’ hardly sounds radical.  But when you’ve never done it before and you are chronically shy (as I am), it’s a big deal. 

But I did it.  And would I do it again….?  It’s a definite possibility!


It’s covered here and I highly recommend you read it.  It was a pivotal point for me!


When I was a child, I learnt to play the piano to a very high standard.  When I left home, I didn’t have a piano to practice on, and I started to work, so it just fell by the wayside.

Despite the fact my fingers don’t work quite like they used to (!), in my mind, I can still play to a high standard.  At the outset, it caused me a great deal of frustration.  I didn’t want to play ‘easy’ pieces.  I wanted to play what I was capable of when I was 18! 

And now, after almost a year of daily practice and persistence, I can play two technically difficult pieces and I’m proud of myself!

So there we have it.  Ten things I’ve done that I hadn’t done for almost 20 years. 

I appreciate that I’m not developing a cure for cancer or brokering peace in the Middle East.  But all in all, I think I’m doing OK…. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Flirting. How far should you go…?

Am I a flirt? 


Well, I’d be lying if I said I never flirted.  I like a good old flirt.  It’s good for the ego.  It can be entertaining.  And as long as it’s done within the right context, it should be harmless.   But I don’t think that makes me ‘a flirt’ per se. 

In my interpretation, a flirt is someone who has no boundaries, doesn’t consider other people’s feelings and gets a ‘kick’ out of leading people on.

Whilst I do like a good old flirt, I tend to do it in what I regard as a ‘safe’ environment.  By that, I mean that I will happily flirt with an attractive man, if there is no chance of anything happening. The second I’m in the company of an ‘available’ man, who might find me mutually attractive and act upon it, I seize up.  To flirt with this ‘person’ feels like I’m showing him my hand and giving too much away. 

And so I come to my friend Clare…

Clare is unhappily married.  Her marriage is at breaking point, but she hasn’t got the strength to leave.  

And so she stumbled upon a younger attractive man.  They flirted…  a lot.  And she savoured the attention that was lacking at home.  He is a single attractive guy, and she is a married woman.  A bit of a flirt would have been fine… but it crossed the line.  And now, I fear someone is going to end up hurt. 

In Clare’s case, it will be the single guy who ends up hurt.  And it’s sad, because I wouldn’t categorise her as ‘a flirt’.  She meant no harm.  It’s just that as they got to know each other better and he saw how unhappy her marriage was, I fear that he may have begun to believe that more would come of it.

And so I come back to myself.   During the many years I was married, I happily flirted with men I knew who, like me, were in committed relationships.  There was an unspoken knowledge that ‘we’ were both fully committed to our respective relationships, and so it was just entertaining ‘banter’. 

But now, as a single woman, I feel great trepidation when a man who is in a relationship flirts with me.

As a single woman, I have become acutely aware that many women, especially those in long standing relationships, regard ‘divorcees’ as dangerous predators.  So to witness a single woman flirt with your husband, has a completely different connotation to a married woman doing the same.

I miss flirting.  I miss the ego boost.  But for the time being, I have had to put flirting on the back burner.

When you play with fire, someone always gets hurt… and I don’t want it to be me…

Thursday, 16 February 2012

School Projects

This week has been hectic.  I guest posted on Netmums, which I was really excited about, and my kids have been home all week, so I’ve been up to my ears arranging their social activities.

Today, my youngest was out all day with a friend, which gave me some valuable time with my eldest.  And as he has a few ongoing school projects to complete, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to get them under way.

I had forgotten just how relaxing and therapeutic it can be to just ‘colour in’…!  And I hope that the maths teacher isn’t suspicious of the intricate designs on the 3D shapes we had to make… Sorry…. That my child had to make!

And so we moved on to the English project.  A subject after my own heart! 

It’s a poetry project.  They have been asked to produce 20 poems – two of which they must write themselves.  Well, I was in my element.  And that’s when I remembered an incident long ago, which I had forgotten all about…

And before I go on, I would like to make it clear that I was NOT naughty at school.  I may have had imagination and curiosity in seismic proportions, but there was never any malice in my behaviour. 

One week at secondary school, we were asked to produce a limerick.  Much to my delight, I discovered I had a bit of a ‘gift’ for it.  Unfortunately, this ‘gift’ and my enthusiasm, combined to motivate a whole raft of limericks all about the teachers in our school.  I gave the limericks to a school friend to read (she loved them!), but unfortunately she was careless and her mother (was coincidentally my English teacher) found them.

I will never forget that feeling, of the blood draining from my face, when my mother received ‘the call’.  All future playdates with my friend were permanently cancelled.  I was in disgrace.  And what upset me the most, was that no one seemed to appreciate my literary genius!

And so, to set the record straight… I’ve decided to charm and delight you with just a couple of quick ones…  off the top of my head… OK… here goes….

There was a young woman called Lara
Whose divorce was a cruel disaster
It took her three years
And she shed lots of tears
But life’s looking much better after.

There was a young man from Lower Slaughter
Whose wife had run off with their daughter
So he had it away
Several times every day
With a woman he really shouldn’t ought’a.

As you can see… it’s pure genius.  How I have not yet been ‘discovered’ is a mystery!

Tomorrow night, I am out with Julian and his partner.  We are going to paint the town red.  I will report back in full…!!!

Night all…

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Valentine’s day and the Single Parent

For the first time in about 21 years…. (‘cos I got one last year!!) I will not be racing down to get the post on Valentine’s Day!  I am not expecting a Valentine’s card from ANYONE!!!!

No flowers, no champagne…. Nothing!  

There's something about Valentine's Day, which I suspect is rooted in my teenage years, that makes me feel a bit sad and lonely if I don't get a card.  And so, I can't help but admit that this year, there's a little bit of me that feels displaced.  

That said, I have to ask, do any of us really want a valentine’s greeting from someone who has fallen out of love with us, who sends us a card out of duty, or who wants something from us but gives nothing back? 

I sure as hell don’t!

And to be honest, that’s exactly what I had for years on end… So this year I’m going to celebrate a different kind of love.  And it’s the greatest love anyone can have…. The love of my children.

Dinner, Chez Lakin, on Tuesday night, will be a ménage a trios!  Me and my two divinely wonderful kids.  Candles, dinner, cards all round.  I might even stretch to a bunch of flowers for the table.  And when dinner is over, I’m going to vote that we all snuggle up under a blanket and watch a movie. 

And the best bit of all is that I won’t be disappointed!  If my kids decide to make me a card, it will be done with their unconditional love and I will cherish it, as I have cherished various things they’ve made me over the years.

At the outset, I said I felt displaced this Valentine’s Day, but on reflection, I realise that I am quite spoilt for love. 

Sometimes I get lonely.  Sometimes I miss having another adult to talk to in the evenings, to share a joke with or just watch TV.  But I am, without a doubt, spoilt for love. 

It is for this reason that I have no right be sad on Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Lara Lakin

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Like most recently divorced mothers, I worry myself sick about the emotional welfare of my children, in the aftermath of such a devastating event in their short lives.  And this week has seen a lot of worry!

Following on from a series of days ‘malingering’ from school, my little one woke up yesterday and started sobbing.  It’s about the fourth time this has happened. 

Once he calmed down, he blurted out that when he’s at school, he misses me and feels home sick.  At 7am on a Tuesday morning, it just wasn’t what any of us needed.  I finally gave in to his demands to stay at home, but on the condition that we go to the doctor.

Fortunately, I managed to get him in to see the lady doctor that I particularly like. As we sat down, I told the little one that he needed to help me explain exactly what was causing him to be off school.

To give you some background, my two children are like chalk and cheese.

The eldest shouts and throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get enough attention, but little one is stoic.  He keeps it all in and doesn’t complain – until eventually it gets too much for him. 

The doctor and I asked him to tell us whether he was unhappy at school, whether he was being bullied, if the teachers were mean to him….  all the usual suspects!  But he said no to them all.  And that was when I realised that, despite my best efforts to give the little one my attention, the time spent focused on his older brother during his recent exams, had taken a heavy toll on him.  He felt ‘left out’ and ignored.

My inner voice started to wage war on my conscience.  I’m only one person… but I should have done better.  I shouldn’t have taken my eye off the ball.  I should have been more conscious of his sensitivities – and not forget that the child who shouts the loudest and protests the most, is usually the one getting the most attention.

And I couldn’t help feeling a certain parallel to my own life.  I kept my ex-husbands behaviour to myself, I bottled it up, and by the time the lid blew off there was total carnage.

I am therefore today keeping this post short.  I am not Supermum.  I don’t always enjoy playing games with my kids as much as I think I should.  And to minimise the wait between the youngest and eldest getting out of school, I always collect the little one from the ‘late room’ half an hour after his collection time.  But today, I am going to attempt ‘Supermum’ status. 

I am going to pick him up on time, despite the lengthy wait that entails.  I am going to take a pack of cards and endure his endless card tricks – with a smile and good will.  And I’m going to try and remember how I felt at his age and attempt to boost his confidence.

No parent is perfect.  No parent gets it right every time.  But there is no excuse for not trying…

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Dirty weekends

Years ago, before I met my husband, I was invited away on a dirty weekend.  I was a single girl.  The man concerned was (I am embarrassed to say) living with someone, but he had the ‘hots’ for me, and invited me away for the weekend.

I was under no illusion that this weekend was going to ‘lead to something’.  I was very young.  He was much older and more affluent.  He was going to take me to a lovely hotel, have sex, and go home afterwards without a second thought.

In a moment of stupid bravado, I said ‘yes’. 

Within moments of having said ‘yes’, I realized I had made a terrible mistake.  It was a mistake I have regretted ever since. 

In practical terms, I am fully aware that I was not (by a long shot) the only one to fall for his charms.  Whilst I feel guilty that his girlfriend would have been devastated, had she known, the real villain was the man himself.  After all, he was the one in the relationship with her. 

So, my only experience of a ‘dirty weekend’ was the one I spent with Jonathan.  And it was horrendous.  For the week between the invitation and the actual ‘event’ I was desperate to call it off… But his enthusiasm paralysed me.  And so I went ahead with it.

From the moment he picked me up in his sporty car, until the moment I got back home, it felt ‘dirty’.  And not ‘dirty’ in a good way!

So here I am now, over 20 years later, with the physical desires a single woman of my age has, wishing for a dirty weekend.  But I know it’s not all it’s cut out to be.

So why is it, that despite the fact that women have needs just as much as men do, I can’t just ‘go for it’.  Accept the offer of a ‘no-strings’ encounter, to satisfy these needs, and take it for what it is. 

And I guess the real answer is, that the real need I have is for someone to want me because they love me.  Without that love, the need will never be satisfied.

Sometimes, I really wish I was a man…

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