Why women should not propose marriage this Leap year.

imagesIt’s the 29 February, a date when, according to tradition, women can propose to their partners. Personally I couldn’t think of anything more embarrassing. Call me old fashioned and anti-feminist but this is definitely one of the roles in life assigned to men, unless you think your man is lacking in confidence to do it himself.


Leap years were introduced by Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago. According to an old Irish legend, St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how leap years balances the calendar. Bridget is said to have been annoyed at the length of time women had to wait for a man to ask for their hand in marriage. Upon debating this with St Patrick, he told her that women could from then on propose on the leap year. The first documented instance of women proposing on February 29th is in 13th century Scotland, where a law was passed that decreed that any man refusing a proposal on the leap year must pay a fine, which could range from a kiss, right through to a silk dress or, most commonly, a pair of gloves.


There is though a strong case for women to use the tradition of February 29th to propose. We women can waste so much time thinking, “When is he going to propose to me?” and creating lots of expectations. If you want something done, you can go out there and do it yourself. But I’m not so sure. I like the idea of a man getting down on one knee and acting all romantic because I’m a hearts and flowers, slushy romantic type. Let’s face it, it just isn’t romantic unless it’s the man proposing. That’s just the way it is. So the unmarried woman in a long-term relationship is expected to remain in a state of uncertainty, panicking over whether or not she’ll be left on the shelf. It’s worth noting that she might not actually want to get off the shelf, but that fact is immaterial.


There is something profoundly sad about a woman proposing. If the man really wanted to marry her he’d do it himself. He knows it’s his job and he doesn’t expect the woman to do it. It smacks of desperation for women to steam ahead and propose. Bear in mind as well men are more cautious about marriage than us women. They have to be in the right ‘place’ to think about this next, scary stage in your relationship. They want to feel secure in their career and finances. If you’ve had the marriage discussion and he’s said he wants to wait you won’t change how he feels by taking the role away from him. Give him time. There’s a reason why he’s not proposed!


The woman proposing could also set a dangerous precedence for the future. He’ll expect you to take the lead on planning the wedding too and we all know how stressful weddings can be. With your newfound equality where will it stop? Next he’ll be expecting you to buy him roses on Valentine’s.


By proposing to him you might also spoil any plans he has to propose to you. Do men like the role? I wouldn’t know. I’ve had 7 proposals in all and none of these men have been asked to fill in the feedback questionnaire.


So ladies give your proposal a miss this Leap year. And if he hasn’t proposed by the next Leap year he never will, in truth and so you will have nothing to lose. But if you are anything like me, with my poor record of making relationships last you’ll be over in four years anyway, so worry not!

I’m the author of ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish.’ It’s the alternative to traditional romance! It was NUMBER 1 on Amazon yesterday in its category!


Defecating on the floor and Young Minds

Unknown-3My son came home from secondary school recently and told me something shocking. A pupil had defecated on the floor of the boys’ toilets. (not the lockable cubicles but the area around the washbasins.) He did this in full view of the CCTV camera.


I was horrified that CCTVs were fitted in toilet areas but it makes sense for various reasons, if they are carefully placed. Cameras deter bullies and most bullying goes on in toilets. In case you are worried about the invasion of your child’s privacy it may surprise you to learn that there are  more than 200 schools across Britain using CCTV cameras in pupil’s toilets or changing rooms. That is a total of 825 cameras. (Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/11/cctv-cameras-school-changing-rooms)


I was also horrified that a pupil would do such a disgusting thing. My son told me it had happened a few times and those caught were expelled. It had also happened on a school trip away. A boy had defecated on another boy’s bed. I was curious to know why somebody would do this. My son said it was just a prank, due to boredom. I wove the incident into my novel ‘Every Family Has One’ which is about a teenager who goes off the rails and attempts to take his life. According to the charity Young Minds among teenagers rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years. Life is tough and young people have more pressures in their lives than ever before. In ‘Every Family Has One’ Tim turns to cannabis to cope. He receives help from various professionals, none of whom offer him the help he needs. The story is a reflection of the state of things in this country and the lack of effective support for depressed teenagers. One reader said, “This is a book every parent should read. The dialogue is cracking and it pulls no punches.”


Here’s the link:



Young Minds link: http://www.youngminds.org.uk/about/whats_the_problem/mental_health_statistics


Turning 50 and what it means for me

imagesLast year I hit the big 50. I took my birthday cards down after a day because I couldn’t bear to look at that huge number. When you reach 50 it really does seem old. You know you’ve definitely arrived at the gatepost marked middle age. There’s no getting away from that fact and yet I don’t feel any different to how I felt when I was 20, physically at any rate. Most of my life is now behind me. I’ve lived for half a century. I was born twenty years after the end of the second world war and the year that Churchill died. Wow! It seems incredible. So what does it feel like to turn 50? I can only tell you what it feels like for me. Other people might feel very differently.


In the two years leading up to the big 50 I began to worry about my memory. I’m not quite as sharp as I used to be in conversations. It upsets me that I can’t remember very much about what I learned at university and sometimes the news is a muddle. I have to refresh my mind all the time by googling things. I put all this down to being pre-menopausal.


The most incredible thing about turning 50 is that I can remember very clearly being my children’s age. They are 19, 17 and 11 now and it only seems like yesterday that I was their age. I can relate to what they are going through. I can remember my first day at secondary school and the worry of finding the classrooms. I can remember college and university. It was hard to relate to them and understand them when they were below 11 years old. It’s great having teenagers and I love being open with them about life and their questions and discussions are interesting.


I’m dreading the menopause because my doctor says I can expect to put on an extra stone in weight. There’s no sign of the menopause yet but my periods have been very erratic for the past year. I went for 6 months without one, then like buses 3 in quick succession came along. I don’t worry about contraception anymore. I know I’m chancing my luck. There are women who do get pregnant at my age but if you look at the statistics there’s a remote chance of conceiving. Fertility declines after 40 and drastically declines at 50. It’s great not having to worry about contraception but it’s not all good news. Down below I’m as dry as a desert and no amount of foreplay makes any difference. There are plenty of products in Boots the Chemist that help. Being dry means intercourse can be painful and cause little tears and soreness.


On the subject of sex I want it just as much as I ever did and very little is forbidden in my eyes! Mainly I want it as an expression of love and feeling close. However too much sex at my age seems to cause cystitis, thrush and bruising. I wonder if other women find the same problem. Men though have their fair share of problems in bed as well, due to age and conditions such as diabetes. I wanted to write about the problems of sex in middle age which is why I wrote ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish.’

Here’s the link:




The main character, Darius has erectile dysfunction and he takes medication for this. There is a lot of humour in this book to lighten the serious side to the story. If you are experiencing problems of this kind you’ll need a sense of humour and a lot of sensitivity towards your partner. Try not to make a big issue of it. In my experience very often the problem sorts itself out with time and is not always related to underlying health issues. Talking to different men about this intimate problem sometimes it’s down to confidence issues. Like women men in their middle age are also feeling under confident about their aging bodies and saggy bellies. With patience and love you can overcome the difficulties. I’m no expert, just a participant observer, but medication such as Viagra and Cialis are very effective. Cialis carries on working over several days. Viagra works very quickly but over a short period of time. It’s like striking a match – you’ve got to jump into bed the minute it works! Cialis is a more even drug to take. There are also testosterone jabs.


Regarding relationships in general there is a sense, at 50 that time is running out. I don’t waste time on relationships that aren’t going anywhere or on men I don’t particularly fancy. I did a lot of that when I was younger. Time is precious. Spending time with family and friends becomes more valued. It’s a bit like being on a fortnight’s holiday. You can waste the first few days bumming around but on the last day the holiday is suddenly nearly over and you need to do the most important thing. That could be buying gifts to take back, or a trip to sea to see the dolphins. In life the older you get the more precious time is. You don’t want to mess around wasting it.


At 50 I no longer worry about money and I have more money now than I did when I was younger. I can go on trips, buy a new car, treat myself to nice jewellery and clothes from posh shops like Monsoon and East rather than rummaging through Primark’s sale. I’ve never been in debt so am unlikely ever to be. Fingers crossed. You can’t take anything in life for granted. I trust myself financially. I feel confident that I’ll be ok in retirement and I’ve set clear goals for the next 20 years.


I know myself much better at 50 than I did at 20 but I don’t accept who I am and never will. I battle with who I am. For many years I didn’t know who I was – on many levels. I don’t always like myself but things have changed a lot since I became a funeral celebrant in 2012. At last I’ve found a career I love and am good at. I love people. I love learning about the lives of others and I love public speaking. At last all of my strengths, assets and passions are being expressed and used and so I think, on balance I’m glad I’ve arrived at 50.


Dating issues: Proposing marriage on Valentine’s Day

Unknown-3With Valentine’s Day just around the corner if you’re thinking of taking your relationship to the next level now is a romantic time to pop the question. I’m 50 and have been married once and am now divorced. I’ve been asked the big question SEVEN times. Maybe that makes me an expert on all dating issues. An expert in failed relationships too! The same man proposed THREE times but the answer was a resounding NO every time. Every few years he chances his luck and thinks I might change my mind.


When a man thinks about proposing he needs to consider very carefully about where to pop the question. And obviously rule number one is make bloody sure she’s going to say yes. There’s nothing more embarrassing and demoralising than rejection.


I was only 18 when my first boyfriend popped the question. I was in the middle of A levels and applying to universities as far away from home as I could go. In hindsight I think he wanted a ring on my finger to stop me straying while I was away. He proposed in the attic of my parents 12th century manor house; the attic where both myself and my sister lost our virginity. He bought me a £30 ring from Blackpool that summer. I needed a microscope to see the diamond. A few weeks later he bought himself an engagement ring costing several hundred from Hatton Garden in London.


Boyfriend number 2 proposed after 2 years of dating. I was 25. We were at the top of the Eiffel Tower, not an ideal place to propose. It’s a small crowded viewing area, not very private and we were jostled by people taking photos and herded up and down in a hurry to make way for more visitors. Not wanting to risk rejection he asked ‘if I asked you to marry me what would you say?’ So my reply was ‘it depends if you are asking me. Are you?’ He blushed then asked properly.


The 3rd proposal came on a crowded train heading out of Cannon Street on a Friday after work. I didn’t take that proposal seriously. I was gasping for air, sweaty and tired at the end of the working week. If you are thinking of proposing on a train there are some gems that have survived the Beeching Axe. Dawlish in Devon has spectacular views, or Settle to Carlisle takes you over the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales with amazing views over the Ribblehead Viaduct. The Oxford to Hereford route is lovely if you like the Cotswolds.


The 4th proposal was the one that actually led to marriage. We were in bed recovering from sex. He didn’t buy me a ring for 6 months and only when his friend told him he had to!


The 5th proposal was the 2nd proposal. (Train man again). This time he proposed on a ghost train in Southend fun fair. It should have been spookily magical but it was more like a horror movie in the making with a Dracula style kiss to follow. My answer was ‘um well maybe in the future,’ which can be translated to ‘never never.’


The 6th proposal was very romantic. It was the absolute perfect setting for a proposal and features in my first book ‘The D Word.’ We were away for the weekend at a beautiful hotel in Scotland. The room had a four poster bed and a massive bathroom with views over wild glens, misty mountains and a dark loch. We were walking in the grounds when he popped the question and I said yes but it didn’t lead to marriage. The hotel was the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed. Check it out here:




The 7th proposal was again from train man. This time we were on the stairs in my house. I was about to kick him down and he shouted ‘marry me you cow.’


It’s highly unlikely anyone will ever propose again, although marriage does still appeal to me. Everyone, deep down likes a happy ending to a relationship. I’ve always wanted a proposal at the end of a pier. Nothing sums up the quintessential British seaside like the pier. Ryde is the oldest pier. Southend has the longest pier in the world. John Betjamin said ‘the pier is Southend, Southend is the pier.’


In my book ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ Darius asks Faye to marry him over ale in The Baltic Fleet in Liverpool. The Baltic Fleet is the only pub in England that brews beneath your feet. One of the landlords was arrested for biting the buttocks of a customer and blaming it on his parrot. There’s a tunnel under the pub linking it to the docks. Drugs and alcohol were smuggled from the docks and prostitutes. Find out how middle aged Darius who wears a wig and can’t get an erection proposes to single mum Faye. It’s hardly a match made in heaven but life rarely is. Here’s the link: