I had a press release land in my inbox last week that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. It was based on a survey of a few thousand people*, asking them whether or not they snoop on their partner via phones or other devices, and if they’ve ever deleted content so that their partner doesn’t see it.

It also asked people whether or not they trusted their partner.

Just that, straight up, do they trust them.

Now you’d hope that this figure would be pretty high – you wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone you didn’t trust would you?

Apparently you would. While 67% of men said they trusted their partners, which honestly felt bad enough to me already, only 28% of women agreed.

TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT!

Really? Do only just over a quarter of us trust our partners?? I can only pray for a skewed sample otherwise I despair of humanity.

Is my partner checking my phone? View Post

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I’ve not been interested in dating at all now for a good six months. It’s actually the most chill I’ve ever felt relationship wise and I’m really enjoying doing my own thing, pottering about and basically not caring much about anything.

I’ve painted a wall in my bedroom a really dark greeny teal colour (there’s a picture on my Facebook page) and rearranged the furniture so that my bed is now in a corner and can only be accessed from one side. If that isn’t a statement of intent then I don’t know what is. I even went to an evening class and learned how to make prints in a dark room. Menopause here I come.

A few days ago though I had a bit of a moment – curiosity more than anything I think – and I redownloaded Tinder, just to see. Obviously the first thing I saw was a man holding a big fish, and then another looking incredibly sad and like dating might tip him over the edge, (two ticks on my Tinder bingo card), and so it served as a welcome reminder of why cats are better than boyfriends.

(I also saw that the man who called me a liar was still there. Not sure why he hasn’t been snapped up.)

I did have a cheeky swipe though, just to check that the evening course hadn’t crushed all of my desirability, and I got a few matches back. Fine. In my experience barely anyone ever actually bothers to message once they known that they could if they wanted to, so I didn’t feel under pressure.

And then this morning I got this lovely message and felt it my duty to reply:

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I had an email this weekend out of the blue from a woman looking for some advice. I was flattered, although slightly concerned on her behalf, that she had come to ME for advice. I don’t exactly have a great track record. She was interested in whether or not to tell dates about having children, and my experience of dating as a single parent.

I hope she won’t mind me quoting part of her email, as it’s anonymous:

‘I am a single parent with young children.’ she wrote. ‘The thought of dating again terrifies me and partly because I am afraid of being judged. Did you feel like you were judged when you went out on dates as a single mother? Did you find it awkward bringing it up especially when the man doesn’t have children? I’m going through all the ‘what ifs’ in my mind and frankly I sometimes feel like a failure.’

I wanted to share it because I’m sure it’s something a lot of single parents worry about and I thought it might be useful to think about it a bit.

should you tell dates about your children? View Post

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I’m not honestly sure why I added ‘read a Mills and Boon’ to my list of 50 things to do before 50. I guess because I would consider myself a wide reader, and yet here was a massive chunk of writing that I had completely ignored. I may as well admit that it was pure snobbery – I imagined they’d be bad, and I didn’t want to waste my time with them.

I didn’t want to be that person though, dismissing something without even giving it a try, so I did a bit of research, (i.e. spent three minutes Googling ‘best Mills and Boon writers’), and settled on this second hand Regency Christmas trilogy. (I love Christmas.)

Mills and Boon reviews

As you may have deduced from the title, these are historical romances, which I’m imagining basically means a lot less sex that the modern ones. In one of these stories the hero has to marry the heroine simply because he’s caught touching her leg in a medical, if unorthodox, capacity.

I was okay with this though, as I’m not massively into reading erotic fiction. I think it’s REALLY hard, (pun intended), to make sex sound sexy when you’re describing the nuts (again, intended) and bolts of it. I’d much rather something a bit subtler – sexiness implied – and use my imagination. I do think too that there can be just as much erotic charge in a meaningful exchange of looks as in a throbbing member being thrust vigorously anywhere – in real life as well as in writing.

So there I was, Regency Mills and Boon trilogy in hand, ready to be unimpressed. View Post

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I have a love hate relationship with Tinder.

A lot of the time I don’t use it at all, because of all the skydive pictures, and then other times I have vulnerable moments like this where I worry briefly that I might die alone, surrounded by cats, and Tinder is my only way out:

https://twitter.com/mummyblogger/status/1114436371454754816

While I’ve never had any truly horrible experiences on Tinder, I’ve also never had any amazing ones. I’ve had a LOT of perfectly pleasant first dates, but very rarely a second one. I was fiendishly seduced by one man who played a game where he pretended to interview me for Desert Island Discs, only to say ‘by the way I should probably tell you I’m not looking for a relationship’,* but most of the time it’s just me swiping left past endless pictures of men who look so sad that you wonder if they have set up a Tinder profile as an alternative to suicide.

I have been doing a bit of swiping lately, to pass the time, and have become increasingly aware of just how similar everyone is in terms of the frankly bizarre pictures they post and the tedious things they say in their profiles. It astounds me that a grown man can decide he wants to impress a woman, and think that a selfie in the mirror of a public toilet, complete with background urinal, is going to be the money shot.

‘When she’s sees this she’s going to be putty in my hands,’ he thinks to himself, content with the fact that you can’t really see his face but CAN see a large toilet cistern.

And the fish! So many fish!

To make the process of finding a match on Tinder slightly less hideous, I have made you a Tinder bingo. It should help to pass the time at least – a distraction from the thought the only men left in the world are permanently sat astride motorbikes, wearing helmets. Why not share it with your single friends, or invite people round for dinner and play competitively? Perhaps do shots every time you complete a row? The toilet selfies might seem more appealing by the time you’ve completed your card.

I would also be interested in particularly on brand screenshots.

Tinder bingo

And yes, I know this is cynical and bitchy and all these men are PEOPLE blah blah blah, but come on guys, make an effort.

Are you a Tinder user? What would you petition to have added to the bingo card? Perhaps you’re a man and are sick of women hiding behind Snapchat filters?

Leave a comment and let me know!

*I mention him because we are still friends and it might make him feel important.

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Post in association with Serenata Flowers

Next to my bed, on one of my bedside tables, I have a white, ceramic jug. Whenever I remember, I buy myself fresh flowers for it. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy as it’s not a huge jug – just a little bunch of freesias maybe for the smell, and a couple of sprays of gypsophila.

I can show you in fact, with a photo that is DEFINITELY NOT an excuse just to post a cat picture.

flowers in the bedroom

(It definitely WAS that.)

There’s something lovely about fresh flowers isn’t there? Partly for me it’s the idea of bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside, especially in the winter when the garden is lacking colour, but partly it’s what they represent – spending just a few pounds on something that’s just for me, something that feels indulgent.

Getting sent a proper big bouquet of flowers in the post is this same feeling, multiplied by about four, because someone else has gone to the effort to think of you, and what flowers you might like, and then spend money on having them sent right to your door. It might feel like a bit of a cliche, but I don’t think that being sent flowers will ever get old.

Last week I was sent a bouquet from Serenata Flowers. View Post

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In association with Thomas Sabo

I have this thing with rings.

I’ve always liked them, generally, but the thing started about eight or nine years ago one day in Glastonbury. I’d gone over to meet a friend for breakfast and we were talking about something rather exciting for me that had happened the day before. I’ve always had a terrible memory, but I knew I wanted to remember this particular thing, so I decided to buy myself a piece of jewellery to mark the occasion.

I bought myself a rather lovely silver ring made with abalone shell, which I love. I bought it to fit the ring finger on my left hand, not especially out of any kind of marriage related principle, but just because it looked nice there and I’m a grown up person and can wear a ring on whatever finger I like, thank you very much society.

(Gosh, that came out a bit stronger than I thought it was going to – maybe it was principle.)

Ever since then, every time I have wanted to celebrate something good happening in my life – like the first time I had a feature published in a national newspaper – or just wanted to remind myself why I am super cool and generally awesome, I’ve bought myself a ring. I wouldn’t say I’m especially materialistic and I’m definitely not one of those people who spends loads of money on clothes and shoes and handbags, but just now and then it’s nice to treat yourself. In fact, it’s somehow more special when it only IS now and then. (Plus you can spend more and feel less guilty.)

Jewellery is a bit of a funny one, as it’s often something you feel you have to wait to be given, especially women’s jewellery, which is strange in a way as it’s so personal – who knows what you love better than yourself?

Which is why when Thomas Sabo got in touch to ask if I would like to take a look at their jewellery, just as I was sending off the final draft of my debut novel, I had a browse through the ladies rings and chose this crown ring from the Kingdom of Dreams collection:

Thomas Sabo ring View Post

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In association with The Inner Circle

I’ve been single for about 14 months. Although I enjoy the freedom and the space in the bed, I’d love to have someone to share things with. I’ve dabbled with the ‘swipey’ dating apps, but it gets depressing when you just see the same faces holding the same giant fish…

When The Inner Circle asked me if I wanted to check out their selective dating site I played it cool for about 37 seconds, then shouted ‘Yes please!’

The Inner Circle review

I’ve just started exploring the site, so can’t tell you (yet) that The Inner Circle is THE place to meet the partner of your dreams, but I CAN tell you what makes it different from other dating sites.  View Post

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GAWD 23 years is a LONG TIME isn’t it?? More than half my life in fact. Over 8000 days.

Oh hang on, 8000 days somehow doesn’t sound as much does it? Let’s stick with 23 years.

Donkey Sanctuary

Any excuse to use the ‘Belle looking like the very small host of a donkey documentary’ photo.

Anyway, you’d hope that over that time I would have learnt a few things – you know, picked up some tips and tricks, stuff not to do. So here’s a list I came up with of some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent.

1.  You will always be a parent. Even when they grow up and leave home they still need you, just in different ways. (Mainly cash based.)

2.  Don’t take a toddler into a big Asda when they are tired or hungry. It WILL end in tears, probably yours in the car park.

3.  There is never a ‘right’ way to cut sandwiches – what was right yesterday will be wrong today so always check.

4.  Even when they get older and should have realised by now, your children will still think you know the ‘answers’. Belle asked me yesterday when the right amount of time is to tell someone you love them.

5.  Every school concert you ever go to will make you want to poke forks into yourself and then your youngest will leave school and you will cry quietly to yourself at the thought of never going to another badly performed nativity.

6.  Having pizza for two meals in one day is totally legitimate. View Post

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Post in association with Babbel

I arrived at the warehouse on the outskirts of London feeling nervous.

I pushed my way through the plastic strip curtain covering the door. I felt like I was nine years old again, going into the chilled food aisle at Gateway with my Gran.

My head was full of Spanish phrases. ‘Tengo tres gatos,’ I muttered to myself. ‘Tienes mascotas?’

On the other side of the plastic curtain a film crew was setting up.

It wasn’t your normal kind of first date scenario.

First dates can be pretty nerve wracking at the best of times. Blind dates even more so. Add in the fact that you are being filmed and the whole date has to be conducted in a language that you’ve only been learning for three weeks and the scope for personal embarrassment is massive.

Fortunately I do not embarrass easily, which is why when language app Babbel set me the challenge a few weeks previously I had been all over it. I mean sure, I’d been secretly hoping that I would end up with French or German, as I studied both of these up to A-level, but Spanish… I’ve watched a bit of Dora the Explorer. I felt up for the challenge.

The fact that my date was Spanish had only been revealed to me three weeks previously in an Oscar ceremony style envelope opening. With the cameras on me, it was revealed that my date was going to be Marco, and off I was sent with a subscription to Babbel and a childlike desire to be star pupil. (I was one of four people taking up the challenge and damn it, I was going to be the best.)

How does Babbel work?

So there I was.

I had Babbel and I had three weeks. I was a little daunted, but I got stuck in. You can use Babbel on your desktop or via the app, but I did all of my learning through the app as liked the flexibility this gave me. You can download lessons to do offline, so I could do twenty minutes on the way to work easily, or do a little bit in bed last thing at night. (I had the idea that it would work a bit like a hypnosis and that if I did it just before going to sleep it would SINK IN without me having to do anything.)

The Babbel team recommended that I did around 15-30 minutes every day and I have to admit that initially I thought I might struggle. I was worried that it might feel a bit like a chore – like having homework set that you didn’t want to do – but it really didn’t. I actually found myself looking forward to it. Sometimes I did an hour, sometimes less, but the time always passed pretty quickly while I was learning.

Your learning on Babbel is split up into lessons, which probably take around 10 or 15 minutes each, depending how quickly you go. You can either work through a course of lessons, or try other ad hoc lessons according to why you’re learning. I went through the whole of the beginner level 1 course and part of level 2, but I also dipped into other subjects, like this one, you know, just in case:

learn Spanish with Babbel View Post

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This year I popped my Love Island cherry. As far as cherry popping experiences go, it has been a good one – I certainly haven’t been left underwhelmed. In fact, Love Island has become an integral part of my evening. I even found myself giving relationship advice to a friend yesterday based on the exploits of the Love Island contestants.

‘If you’re finding yourself thinking too much about it,’ I said to a friend who has been seeing a new man for a couple of months, ‘maybe it just isn’t meant to be? It’s like Wes and Megan,’ I said, getting into my stride. ‘Wes was perfectly happy with Laura, but still at the back of his mind he felt like he could potentially be happiER.’ (Who doesn’t want to hear that from someone you’re dating?)

‘But then he got with Megan and he just KNEW,’ I said. ‘Maybe if he was right for you you would just KNOW?’

I feel like this total acceptance of everything that happens on Love Island as FACT probably says a lot about my approach to relationships generally, but we will brush over that bit for now.

What I want to talk about today is how sad I am that Sam and Georgia finally made the decision to leave the villa together. Aside from the fact that Sam is the only one of the boys who I could ever begin to vaguely imagine myself having sex with, (‘he’s relatively kind of small and like a weasel’ I wrote in my family WhatsApp group, ‘so pretty much my type’), I have developed something of a soft spot for Georgia.

I think it’s because she reminds me a bit of myself. View Post

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In association with Match

I’ve been dating on and off for about ten months now and I’m actually really enjoying it. I’m happy on my own but I’m open to meeting new people and that feels nice – I can enjoy getting to know someone over dinner without any pressure and I’ve met some really interesting and fun people.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, and generally having a lot more confidence, but I feel more relaxed and positive about dating than I ever have before. It’s pretty cool.

It’s very different to when I dated ten or even five years ago. The fact that Belle is now 15 and happy to stay home alone makes a massive difference. When I think back to my earlier experiences of dating as a single parent I mainly remember the painful logistics of the whole thing.

Specifically, babysitting.

I mean think about it, it doesn’t matter how much effort you make getting your feet ‘summer ready’ or curling your hair in sexy waves around your face if you end up with a small toddler casually sat next to you at dinner does it?

single parent dating babysitting service Match Yoopies

What me?

(Just to clarify – I have never taken a toddler on a first date, mine or anyone else’s. This is one of my favourite ever pictures of Belle though, known affectionately in the family as ‘big sandwich’.) View Post

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