Back in the game (again)

So, readers I have dipped my toe in to the murky water of internet dating again. When will I ever learn? It’s a dodgy world of players, chancers, the emotionally vulnerable, the deluded, the desperate and the fibbers. Somehow, you have to try to sift through all these undesirable weeds to find a decent one. I still believe there are a few diamonds in the rough, but need the secret formula to  smoke them out.

Entering this for the second or third time, I have become more discerning in what I want from the multitude of dating sites out there.

Five months ago I was full of high hopes when I joined a particular site, one I had heard anecdotally had been a great success for many people. It is the sort favoured by left-wing broadsheet readers in medical, legal, creative and media professions. I thought “here’s the place to meet an intelligent, interesting chap, who could debate the world’s issues and hopefully read up on witty seduction techniques!”

I was wrong. The majority I came across were pretentious bores – writing clever lists of their interests, saying things like “I prefer Waitrose to Aldi” or “My date must be able to discuss Nietzche, appreciate Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor and know the difference between a Bordeaux and a Merlot.” Well, either that or a good 20 per cent of them pretended they were 20 years younger than their actual ages; and as I have always suspected those of my own age are looking for younger fillies to make babies with and to massage their egos.

There was also a long period when nothing happened at all. I got bored flicking through the almost identical lists of hobbies and “thanks for stopping bys” and seeing the pop-up messages from old men, saying they were 49, when they were actually 69.

So, after five months wasting my time – the old corresponding-with-someone-who-disappears-after-a-couple-of-weeks thing and two dates with one guy, who was lovely but with whom I had nothing in common – I decided to defect.

Now I am back on one of the biggest dating sites around (I am not naming any of these places, by the way). In just a couple of weeks it has been like moving from the Outer Hebrides to Times Square. Around eight people ‘view’ my profile every day, I receive a couple of messages a day and, when life is hectic enough with the daily routine, it’s impossible to keep up. There is still a need to sift out the diamonds, but at least here, there is more choice and not all the decent ones live 200 miles away.

I have been here, before, though and know there are many, many chancers – with higher membership, there’s a higher twat rating, a higher number of kidders and a higher number of delusionals who think they can pretend to be younger, better looking and more interesting. So we will have to wait and see.

Life was so much simpler when there were more crowded rooms to stand in and find someone’s eyes to meet…

Big hugs

The other day a male work colleague dressed a deep puncture wound on my left ring finger.

This was an unremarkable event in itself; I had accidentally stabbed myself when washing the giant blade of a new food mixer. A day or two after, when I was in work, I asked him for advice, when it was still bleeding quite a lot. He had done a first aid course, you see.

But as he gently applied a padded dressing and secured it with some surgical tape, it sent a strange tingle from my wrist, up my arm, shoulder and into the back of my head. It’s that odd, but pleasant feeling you get when someone touches you (not sexually) in an unexpectedly gentle way. I remember the same feeling when I was about seven and my piano teacher adjusted my ‘fingering’.

I have no feelings of attraction towards this colleague – he’s a sweet, funny man about 20 years older than me with a twinkle in his eye, but nothing to appeal to me in that way – nor my female piano teacher of 30-odd years ago.

But the significance of this event – which I would never tell anyone, as it would sound self-pitying – was that it must have been the first time in over seven months that a man has actually touched me. Here, I am not counting a hug from my brother on Christmas Day, or repeated hugs and kisses with a four-year-old boy (my little boy, by the way). And because of that, the thought of it lingers in my mind. And how careless I was when I was washing the ruddy big blade that sliced through my washing up gloves.

I am not making this observation for sympathy and pity, just noting it for thought and the fact that when we get ‘touched’ regularly we all tend to take it for granted. If you’re bored with your man, irritated by him grabbing you from behind as you do the dishes (avoiding sharp mixer blades, I hope), kissing your neck or squashing your legs, as you sit together on the sofa and he does that turning sideways to stretch out and use you as a foot rest thing, just think about it. What if all that physical contact suddenly stopped, even though you find it annoying at times?

It feels cold – cold and shivery. Yes, if these things happen, we just have to suck it up. Shit happens, as less articulate philosophers would say. And lots of old people live for years without a single hug, kiss, touch of a hand. I remember (long gone) older relatives attaching so much meaning to a mere hug that, clearly, it was a major event in their lives.

So, really, I mustn’t grumble. But nothing can replace a big man hug, that kind where you can bury your head in his chest, hear his heart beating, smell his scent, feel the warmth emanating through his clothes, as he holds you tightly, for a few minutes. Even emerging with an imprint of the knit pattern of his jumper on your face, and feeling slightly woozy, because you haven’t breathed proper air for a few minutes, is worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – I still miss the sex bit too – my God, I do! But I have ‘machines’ that can help with that.  Whereas, at this time of year, when temperatures drop below zero, any number of layers of clothing, heating on full blast, jumping up and down and jogging on the spot, are just not enough. Nothing can replace snuggling up with someone on the sofa or under the duvet.

Walking home

I leave the warm, bright and hazy air of the pub. The laughter and babbling buzz of voices fade abruptly as the door swings shut behind me and the smell of real ale and sweat is replaced by the cold, stale winter air. Rotting leaves, car exhausts, cigarette smoke and a faint whiff of spicy takeaways fill my nostrils.

An icy, wake-up gust of wind strikes my face and makes me pull the zip further up my chest and the scarf over my chin.

But you were all drunk, you waved me off absent-mindedly and returned to your blokey conversation – space travel, comic books or bacon and eggs… My departure is a mere pause in your ramblings. You will have forgotten I left and half an hour later, one of you will say ‘has she gone?’ and another will shrug, before you get back to worm holes.

But I have had enough – time to go, time to go before I slur my words, before I knock over a full glass of sepia liquid, or fall off my stool, or crash into someone carrying three full glasses from the bar, or the strange moustached man with the red braces tries to talk to me. Before I do something I shouldn’t.

The wind is now whistling and humming in my ears. I have crossed two main roads, my head down, purposeful ‘I’m not drunk and I know where I’m going’ walk. Huddles of people walk past me – a group of four or five girls not wearing enough clothes for a winter night, three men in their 30s who stumble from one side of the pavement to the other, a couple giggling and clinging on to one another. An older man on his own, in a long woollen coat comes towards me. I look down to avoid eye contact. It seems to work and he shuffles past. In fact no one seems to see me as they glide past; it is almost as though I am invisible, or they are not real. A few more people walk by – lost in their own worlds, full of the drink, conversations and hopes for the rest of the night.

The almost-bare trees sway and dance in the wind, like a sea of arms; bits of litter float across the pavement in the breeze; grates gurgle, and the lights behind closed curtains give a hint of those indoors, cosy on their sofas, watching Saturday night TV.

I stride out briskly, quietly – thankful I put on my flat, warm boots. They make me feel stronger, more able than some teetering, clomping heels.

I turn up the hill to my house – my walk seems to have taken no time, I think, as I wonder what my tipsy male friends are doing now.

The house is dark and empty, no light to help me find the shape of the keyhole, so I scratch and scrape around, until it goes in. Then I am alone in the hallway, wishing for a cuddle and a kiss.

I remember days of urgent fumbling, passionate snogs, teeth clashing, desperately grabbing at belts and zips, slamming against the wall, unable to wait to go upstairs, warm bodies, firm crotches…

Instead, I make some toast and flick through the channels.

Round Robin/revelation

Dear __

As we come to the end of another year, it’s time for my annual update on the Nooky-Hill family. I do hope you and yours are all well and looking forward to the festive season.

I have had an eventful year to say the least.

Currently, I am writing this from a locked bedroom. Roxanna, who is now 16, is not speaking to me and we are avoiding each other around the house, reasons for which I will go into later.

So, I hear my husband Trevor is fine and recovering well from the shock of events earlier in the year. I know many of you will have included his name in your cards to us, but for those who haven’t yet completed this arduous Christmas task, please only address to myself and Roxanna (or even better, separate cards for each of us, but, I know times are hard, so whichever is easier…). I am sure, that from his bedsit, if he could, he would wish you all the best.

When Roxanna and I last spoke (about four months ago) she said she had joined the school netball team and was enjoying singing lessons with her teacher Mr Edwards. I would feel the same if I was her – he is one hot music teacher, but 20 years too young for me! I can’t give you any more recent updates, as she stays in her room most of the time and I only get in there to pick up her dirty laundry when she’s at school.

So, my big news: I have a new man in my life! And just as soon as he can leave his wife, he’s coming to me.

When my outside security light stopped working over the summer, I called an electrician. I thought I had better get it fixed before the nights drew in. So I called a local firm and in walked Nigel. I don’t know if it was the blue overalls, his dazzling smile or his skills with a screwdriver, but I knew then that this man would know exactly how I was wired! Sorry – I hope you aren’t showing your children this letter!

Nigel felt the same way – as I handed him a cheque (£40 – so, pretty good value too!) – our eyes met and I asked if he’d stay for a cup of tea.

One thing led to another – and he was also not getting much attention from his wife at home. I don’t know if it was the electricity between us (pun intended) or my custard creams, but we gave each other a look, he asked if anyone else was home, then we went upstairs. And I don’t mean to check the light fittings in my bedroom!

The trouble was that we got too carried away. In fact, I think I was on all fours holding on to the headboard, when Roxanna came home from school.

She was obviously worried about what was causing the screaming and banging and ran upstairs. We had no time to hide or cover up. I am still mortified at the memory of that moment. As she probably is too.

Obviously, with her being 16, there was no way we could pass it off as Nigel being a doctor and doing an internal examination, or a home-visiting yoga teacher showing me some alternative moves. And of course she told her dad at the first chance, despite me begging her not to and offering to buy her whatever she wanted.

So, my friends, this is where we are right now – Trevor left as soon as he could, but is not throwing me out of the house – because even though Roxanna hates me, this is her home.

Nigel pops round between jobs, but is still waiting for the right time to tell his wife – he thought it best to get Christmas out of the way. Roxanna and I will probably eat Christmas dinner in separate rooms, unless my mum comes over – then she’ll have to divide her time between us both, a bit like musical chairs.

Anyhow, I had better pop off now – I have some last minute lingerie shopping to do – I want to surprise Nigel next time he’s over…

Sorry if I have been a little too revealing here, but blame the festive sherry – I needed three glasses to find the courage to write this – wanted to keep up with tradition, even if everything else has changed.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year

Love and best wishes from Cynthia Nooky-Hill

In the zone

Ever had the feeling that the bus you were hoping to catch just drove by without even stopping and opening its doors? I mean in a metaphorical sense, not when the damn bus is too full for any more passengers (which used to be a regular Saturday night occurrence many moons ago).

I first heard the phrase ‘friend zone’ in an early episode of ‘Friends’ when Ross just fancied Rachel, before they got together. It popped up again in the Ryan Reynolds film ‘Just Friends’ about a former overweight nerd who returns to his home town, now slim and hot, to try and woo the girl he had a crush on at high school. But this girl only sees him as a friend.

The concept is that you can have a fantastic platonic friendship with someone of the opposite sex, but if you secretly wish to cross the line into ‘more than friends’ you face possible rejection, deep anxiety of how to broach the subject, risk of your signals being misread/not even noticed or a good chance that (relationship or no relationship) your friendship could be lost forever. In short, if it doesn’t go your way, it could end very, very badly. But, your motivation for acting on your feelings is that you do not, no way, want to be stuck in the ‘friend zone’.

I think I have just been at the ‘overweight nerd’ end of this with Mr Eight or Nine, who I neglected to mention in earlier posts bore a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp. So, yes, why would he waste his time with a flabby, saggy middle-aged single mum? Well, somehow, he managed to waste two visits to a nearby city which we could both get to easily by train. When I am sure he had better ways to while away a Saturday afternoon and evening. I suppose in my head I had him down as someone very intelligent who could look beyond superficial appearances.

We had a couple of great get-togethers, chatting, giggling and there were smiles and eye contact. He didn’t shuffle his chair as far away as possible, but nor was there any physical contact. By date two we were chatting a lot, but his eyes kept wandering around the room. And by this point one would expect a little flirtation, a brush of the hand, a playful nudge or even an arm around the waist, if nothing else. When it ended with a cold ‘I’ll text you’, without even a handshake, I knew I was on a hiding to nothing. Well and truly in the friend zone with no way out, the dull, middle-aged mum to his handsome, intellectual, PhD, late 30s man, unburdened by life’s mill stones.

Aah well, more time to clean the kitchen, hem curtains and scrub skid marks out of pants.

But this episode was nowhere near as perplexing as one from over 20 years ago. I am even hesitant to give him a false name as I still wish for an answer to the question. But I will call him Sean, to save him from embarrassment of being linked to me.

Sean was in the year below me at school, but only three months younger. He was good-looking, popular, sporty, academic, but while many like him would be arrogant and downright annoying, he was kind, caring and never took himself too seriously. We got chatting when his year were allowed to join some of our A-level art classes, if they wished to do a bit of extra work.

I have to add here that at 17, I was an oddball – dressed a bit like a hippy-goth, floaty skirts, Doc Martin boots, but I never quite got it right and was always messing up in some way or other – tripping over in front of large audiences, misunderstanding questions I was asked, and in social situations, nervous, shy and awkward. So, I was worlds away from Sean in the school ‘street cred’ hierarchy.

Sean started by teasing me, but not in a cutting or hurtful way, more in a gentle, cheeky fashion. We then chatted a little in class until the teacher told us to shut up. He happened to live near me so we began sitting together on the bus home. I imagine now that this friendship attracted a degree of ribbing from his mates, but at the time, I just enjoyed chatting to someone who seemed so genuine, fun and exciting, compared to the usual misfits I hung out with.

The friendship continued after we left school. When I was home from uni in the holidays he’d ring and say “let’s go out for a drink” and within ten minutes, infuriatingly leaving me very little time to get ready, he’d have pulled up outside my house in his silver car. It was usually just the two of us, but sometimes one of his friends would come along.

I have lost count of the number of times I snuck lingering glances, when he wasn’t looking, of his slim athletic frame, his curly brown hair, green-blue eyes and perfect white teeth. He never tried to hold my hand or kiss me. There were a few playful nudges when we were having a laugh.

The most that happened – and it has lingered in my mind for over 20 years – was a night when we trudged back to his house in the snow one Christmas, with one of his friends. It was freezing cold but I had no gloves. He noticed me shivering and rubbing my hands together. “Here, put your hand in my pocket to warm it up.” I slipped my hand into his jacket and his hand went in too, next to mine, but we didn’t even hold hands, just had our hands sitting there in this inadequate space, awkwardly next to each other. I still don’t know whether I should have held his hand or not. I was too scared to make any move that would destroy our friendship and result in not seeing him at all, but he never suggested anything else happened, either. It was the great unspoken moment in our non-relationship.

As the years passed, boyfriends came and went, and I’m sure he had girlfriends but he never mentioned them to me, and I never told him about the men in my life. I moved into a flat, he got a house and the last time we had a proper conversation was when he came to see me just after I moved in – I didn’t even have a phone number for him; he had tried to contact me via my parents’ number.

For some reason there was a little awkwardness between us and we were both less relaxed than before. The conversation was stilted. I somehow felt a little embarrassed. We went out for a drink, which was also more tense than usual, then went our separate ways, not arranging to meet again. With hindsight, this was probably the moment when the drapes were fully drawn on any way out of the ‘friendship zone’. We were utterly stuck in our little ruts with no way up the slippery walls.

We had fleeting contact a few years ago via a social media site – but it was mostly a ‘hi, how are you and congratulations for being married and having kids’ conversation, which went nowhere and he clearly had no intention of taking it further. I wanted to scream: “WELL, ACTUALLY, MY MARRIAGE IS PRETTY MUCH FINISHED, SO ARE YOU SINGLE AND DID YOU EVER FANCY ME? DID I MISS THE VITAL SIGNS AND IF SO, LET’S START SOMETHING NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”

Probably best I didn’t – the pain of rejection after all these years of an unanswered question would be like an extremely hard kick in the stomach with steel toe-capped boots. And why would I be so arrogant as to assume that the popular, funny, good-looking guy from school wouldn’t have settled down with a stunning, intelligent, faultless superwoman?

Maybe the ‘zone’ is the safest place to be.


Can you get a bird in the hand if you are too far in the bush?

A male acquaintance recently joked that the current fashion for an enormous foliage of facial hair is rendering beards the status of appliances, as opposed to light chin coverage.

Ever other guy over 18 seems to be trying out a facial garden. And we aren’t talking a neatly trimmed lawn or ‘goatee’ here, but a shaggy ‘shipwrecked for a month’ look. A cross between this and a Victorian gentleman akin to Charles Dickens or Bram Stoker, if it wasn’t for the obligatory tattoo sleeve, sockless footwear and earlobe-disfiguring jewellery/bath plugs.

Now, I am all for people expressing their individuality/creativity through their appearance (says the woman who once teamed a long orange cardigan with pink tutu-style skirt in a fit of youthful madness). But this isn’t it, seeing as this style choice is afflicting around 25 per cent of the western male population.

I have yet to meet a woman who is in a relationship with such a species (probably due to the fact that most of my female friends are over 35). If I did I would be tempted to ask some intimate questions, e.g.:

  • How is the kissing process?
  • Does his beard get tangled up with your downstairs beard?
  • Do you spend long evenings picking out from his beard bits of spaghetti/steak/rice/biscuit crumbs?

The second of these questions reminds me of an ex’s comment on a couple on our course at uni. She had auburn hair, his was brown, then he decided to try growing a beard. The beard came out ginger. My then beau whispered in my ear: “You do realise that his beard was brown before they got together…?”

The other downside to this over-cultivation of facial follicles is that it ages a man by ten or 20 years – someone who shaves a beard off often looks baby-fresh, years younger. I suspect the younger chaps often adopt a beard to assume a more mature façade.

And let’s remember that there are some men who look better with a carpeted chin – take Russell Crowe, for example. In my view there are ‘either/or’ people too, such as the genetically-blessed Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp – I would share a tub of posh ice cream with either of them, bearded or nude-faced (them, not me).

Now, don’t get me wrong, readers, I am not against beards per se. A manicured bit of bristle is fine – and I don’t mean ‘designer stubble’ (too George Michael circa 1986) or ‘soul patches’ or the pencil-thin facial hair stripes favoured by some Mediterranean men.

Light, neatly trimmed beards are even quite sexy on the right man; take my 8 or 9 out of ten who featured in last week’s post. It was in no way an untamed bush (behave!) but a perfect frame for his beautiful features – highlighting his lovely mouth and sparkling eyes. The difference in such coverage is that its owners take time to nurture, trim and maintain, in a similar way to some of us care for our ‘downstairs beards’. Although I do hear on the grapevine that, in this bodily region, the bush is back!

Out of my league

I wanted to kiss you there and then. To gently press my lips on yours, just for a few seconds, just to taste you.

But would it have been right? After all, we only met two hours ago, drank coffee and talked for an hour and forty minutes. An hour and forty minutes to try to gain some intimacy, an hour and forty minutes to discreetly look you up and down; to assess you perfectly shaped rear; to imagine the rest of you under your shirt; to admire your handsome face, your white teeth and pretty brown eyes, long blond hair tamed in a ponytail and neat beard. No, you are not my usual type, but you are a stunning vista, a foreign landscape, like looking over Venice rather than my usual East coast seaside town.

Yes, I wanted to kiss you, to transport myself to this other world. But I am still not sure you are ready to take me. There was a brief hesitation, a flicker in your eyes as we parted at the station, but you are playing your cards close to your chest.

Maybe I am not enough for your land, not the willowy, long-limbed beauty who would match you, too much bulk to sit well in your gondola. Maybe it would tip a little more at my side – not quite a perfect symmetry.

As I teetered back to our table with more coffee, I sensed you watching me, scanning my top to toe as I looked down to try not to spill hot liquids.

Were you disappointed? Was I a five out of ten? For you are surely an eight or nine.

But still, I wanted to kiss you, to taste the sweet nectar of an eight or nine, to entwine myself around your perfect frame, maybe even glide a hand down to your textbook –perfect rear, to feel you against me. A brief few seconds to drink you in would at least give me a glimpse, a peek through a crack into this unreachable world.

The man in the picture

The man in the picture smiles broadly; he shows a row of even white teeth. The smile is natural, spontaneous, etching crinkles around his eyes. And those eyes – clear, blue, welcoming the camera lens, not shifty, nor untrusting. He presumably knows whoever is behind the viewfinder – maybe it’s a friend, an old girlfriend, lover, brother or sister.

He stands in a large green space, surrounded by hills, limestone and mist on the horizon. The straps of a rucksack rest on his shoulders, his thick brown hair – closely cropped, a neatly trimmed beard. This coupled with his blue fleece suggest ‘outdoorsy, natural, low maintenance guy, up for fun and adventure.’ This alone draws me in.

The man in the picture is looking for ‘long term relationship, short-term relationship, fling, marriage, just friends, let’s see what happens.’ He doesn’t disclose whether he wants this all at once or which he would prefer – or maybe he would like a different woman for each. For this man, I would happily play six different roles and change my name, clothes, hair and voice for each.

The man in the picture is 38, 5ft 11ins, describes his sense of humour as ‘goofy’ and would happily bake a cake for that special someone.

He likes woman who are down to earth and comfortable in their own skin, but hates clothes shopping.  I feel I tick all these boxes and many more.

The man in the picture ‘likes’ me. I ‘like’ him by clicking on the word ‘like’. He writes me a breezy  ‘Hey, how are you’ message. I reply in a similar vein. The communication channels have now opened. We discover we both like crunchy peanut butter and walking in the hills. He starts calling me ‘hun’, I call him his name. He tells me he’s already been on ‘a few’ dates and clearly, he is picking up a virtual fan club of admirers, all vying for a date.

We have a frantic week of messaging, getting in touch at least twice a day. It gets quite heated in a virtual 70-miles-apart- way. We mention showers (of the spraying bathroom variety), underpants and stockings. My heart begins to leap every time I hear from him. I am infatuated with a photograph and some words. The idea of him excites and intrigues me.

Then, I am thrown back to the ground with a thud.

There is a longer than normal gap between our messages, not just a pause for him go to work, get on with his life. It is a gaping, empty, cold pause. His profile disappears; he has hidden it.

I am bewildered, lost, find it hard to swallow. I tell myself this is not even a whole person – it’s a part of him he has chosen to display on this forum, probably his best side, his shop front. So why should I feel so bereft?

Before I can stop myself I send him a message asking how he has disappeared – did he even know he had disappeared? Maybe it was a malfunction on the website, a page inexplicably lost.

But the man in the picture wanted to disappear.

He needed a break from the whole caboodle. Other stresses in his life were taking over so he needed ‘head space’ and not the added distraction of messaging strangers.  I would take distraction any day.

Seven long days pass. My heart is on the floor. I tell myself to stop being ridiculous. He is just a man in a picture, who manages to hold his smile, despite being stressed and a heavy rucksack weighing him down.

Then on the seventh day, a message pings into my silence. He treads carefully, asking how I am and how my life is.

I adopt a bright and breezy tone, suppress my excitement, joy and relief. And we restart our exchanges, but something has been lost. He is less interested, wearier.

The man in the picture is fading away; the camera lens is starting to lose focus.

How does it work?

With all my recent questioning and hand-wringing over relationships, which never comes to any satisfactory conclusion, I thought it time to look at those who get it right. Or appear to get it right in front of friends and onlookers.

Some couples just seem to make it work with very few problems – no pots and pans thrown across the room, no trial separations, not even one of them getting out of the car at the traffic lights and saying “right, that’s it – I’ve had enough”.

These case studies are based on real people, but with some details changed to avoid any future litigation.

Couple one – bovine woman and ant man

She spends many mornings lying around in bed, taking it easy, while he’s up at seven, buzzing around the house. He’ll be cooking a five star breakfast, putting on a machine wash and giving the lounge a quick vacuum.

Meanwhile bovine woman is still in bed, reading the papers, sipping coffee and totally oblivious of the outside world.

Yet still, bovine woman and ant man are very much in love after nearly 20 years together. He loves looking after her, keeping the house together and being the main provider. She revels in the pampering care she receives from her devoted lover and servant.

This couple understand each other completely and will be going strong long after many others throw in the towel. There is also a hint of an exciting sex life when the curtains are drawn. She won’t say any more to me, other than “he’s a total perv” and suggested there was a box of toys somewhere in the house. Maybe that’s their recipe for success – he serves her in return for unadulterated bedroom action.

Conclusion: I couldn’t be waited on hand and foot all the time without feeling guilty. I would prefer to share the work. Although right now, a foot massage and cup of tea would go down a storm…

Couple two – chalk and cheese

I don’t really know how these two have lasted over 15 years. Nothing outwardly about this relationship could even suggest there was ever an attraction in the first place. Him: overweight, spends much of his time playing video games or horizontal on the sofa, drinking cans of cider. Her: petite, avid yoga enthusiast, busy social life and friends who regularly outpour their problems to her or entrust her with their secrets.

But yet, nothing will ever tear them asunder. They have had their rough patches – family bereavement, work worries – but still they carry on in their separate worlds, under one roof, only coming together for certain TV programmes or bedtime. I then picture him snoring and her curled up in a foetal ball on the edge of the bed.

Conclusion: I am mystified by the success of this union. It’s fine to have different friends and interests, but leading virtually separate lives with no overlap is taking things a bit far.

Couple three – Sporty couple

These two have been together since they were 17. They have grown up, gone through their 20s and 30s together, been best friends, almost seem related to one another after almost 25 years’ exclusivity.  Except for one thing many would envy: They still fancy the pants off each other.

Even now, if they are sitting side by side, he puts a protective arm around her shoulder, or she rests her hand on his thigh.  This must be one of the 21st century’s miracle couples – no exaggeration.

Both are athletic, sporty and probably fit the same clothes they wore in their teens. They run, walk, rock climb and mountain bike. And to complete their perfect partnership, they have two sons who do the same. The four of them make an attractive team in their hoodies, gilets and cargo pants.

Sporty guy is rather quieter and more serious than sporty girl, who is confident and outgoing. This pair probably have their five a day, sex at least three times a week and a family session of sit-ups and squats each morning.

The only hint of mutiny seeps into the outside world when she is out with girlfriends and sporty guy is home with the kids. One of our group asked if she ate healthy food all the time, to which she looked a little sad and said “yes, I’m afraid so.” On very rare alcohol-fuelled occasions, she has also been witnessed partaking in a sneaky cigarette. “Don’t tell X – he’ll kill me!”

Conclusion: While I envy this enduring commitment and still-present spark, there are small signs that he is in charge of the health regime. He needs to loosen up a little or quiet frustration may turn into out and out revolt.

Couple four – Like and like

Stress is a foreign word in this partnership. Granted, Bloke is a worrier while Bird goes with the flow a little too much, but their level of calm is quite breath-taking.

These two make having a house full of children – charging about, eating buns on the stairs, spilling drinks on the sofa cushions and bouncing on beds – look like a carefree past time.

They are so serene and in tune with one another that they are almost like the same person split in two.

Most Halloweens, Christmases or Easters, they organise events that bring dozens of their children’s friends to their house. Bird will have a big pot of casserole or chili bubbling on the stove, while Bloke idly reclines in his armchair, or plays the clown with the kids. And all the time they are unscathed by the pandemonium around them.

I have never heard a cross word between them in these situations or when they are on a night out without the kids. Bloke will tease Bird affectionately while she jokes about his little foibles, like insisting on reading three Sunday papers or still struggling to work the DVD player and they playfully elbow one another.

They do both, however, have difficulty knowing when to stop drinking on a night off and are the two most likely to be stumbling along the pavement, dodging lamp posts and litter bins, gurning through their slurry sozzled faces. I imagine they wake up in the morning after such a night, half-dressed, face down on the bed, not knowing whether they ‘did it’ or not.

Conclusion:  This is bordering on the kind of partnership most of us would want, but I do worry that these two reach the bottom of a bottle too quickly on their nights off. I like a drink, but sex is far more enjoyable and orgasmic when you are not completely paralytic.

So, readers, as usual I have gone around the houses and come back with very little – aside from a pint of milk and packet of biscuits. There are probably bits of each of these relationships which make them a success – but the reality of how they work is probably a secret recipe known only to the cooks themselves.

15 things that are pretty much a certainty when you are a middle-aged single mum

Being a single (sexually frustrated) middle-aged mum can be rather lonely and isolated, especially when you know no other single middle-aged mums and don’t actually have the time to seek any out. Maybe some of this will trigger some solidarity, maybe it will just reinforce any notions that I am in a different dimension to everyone else.

  1. You will never celebrate a diamond or ruby wedding anniversary (unless they discover the secret of immortality).
  2. It is 99 per cent certain that you will spend New Year’s Eves staying in alone, as your ex will always have something better to do/go to than looking after the kids.
  3. Your bed never fully warms up in winter, despite wearing several layers and using a hot water bottle.
  4. You could fill a beer barrel with the number of vibrator batteries you’ll get through in a year.
  5. To actually get out of the house alone takes military planning, and you can’t do it discreetly – you have to tell your ‘sitter’ where you’re going, when you’ll be back etc. and are constantly checking the time while you’re out to make sure you don’t breech your curfew. Forget spontaneity.
  6. Your friends will either try to match-make, or attempt to point out the most unlikely suitors, in an attempt to assimilate you into their world e.g. “how about Bob the handyman – he may have an eye patch and drag his left leg, but he’s a lovely chap.”
  7. On your weekends off you’ll frequently find that none of your friends are free to go out for a drink or stay in with a movie. So you’ll end up on your own watching a rom-com and eating crisp sandwiches.
  8. You will be the source of amusement and entertainment for coupled-up friends, who will quiz you on every dating disaster. They will make you feel like a freak with their thorough cross-examinations of everything from bedroom mishaps to wardrobe malfunctions.
  9. You can go stir-crazy on the days spent entirely with your kids – yes, it’s quality time, but you crave adult conversation and someone to make you a cup of tea at the very least.
  10. You spend more time wearing pyjamas than you ever did when there was a man living in your house.
  11. New underwear rarely gets bought – in fact all your white bras have turned grey and your knickers are starting to get holes in them.
  12. Apart from for the purpose of going swimming, you start to question the point of shaving your armpits, especially in the colder months. How long could that hair grow?
  13. You start getting overly fanatical about watching kids’ TV shows and could probably have Cbeebies as your specialist subject on Mastermind. In fact you actually develop a crush on one of the male presenters.
  14. You find yourself, at the age of 40 going on holiday with your parents. And the roles you occupied as a child return, even though you are a parent yourself. You will still be told off for leaving a door open or dropping crumbs, even though your own children are there now.
  15. At weddings and parties there is a distinct awkwardness about your lack of a ‘plus one’ and you find yourself not knowing what to do if a slow dance comes on  – more than likely you’ll be clutching your bag in the corner and trying not to gulp your drink down too fast.

Or is it just me?