The Single Swan

The Journey of a Single Mother

Co-parenting trouble : what you don’t know can haunt you

Something happened to my son last weekend when he was with his dad.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that my son has been more reserved, hesitant, nervous and clingy ever since.

My son is just over two and hasn’t got the language to tell me.  My ex hasn’t got the courage to tell me. 

I could tell straight away that something had happened.  My ex delivered my son home as usual.  I gave my son a kiss and a cuddle.  Ordinarily, he would then run off into the lounge and check that all of his toys were there.  Ordinarily, he would pick one or two toys out and show them to his dad.

Last weekend, my son would not let me put him down after our kiss and cuddle.  He screamed and clung to me when I tried to release him.  He refused to say goodbye to his dad.  He refused to give him a kiss and a cuddle.  He turned away from him and buried his head into my shoulder. 

When his father had left my son started crying, but he was crying in a way that I had never seen him cry before.  My son cries when he is having a tantrum and these cries are obviously fake.  My son cries when he has hurt himself and these are genuine cries of pain.   The cries of pain are always short lived, but my son has great stamina for a tantrum.

He had sadness written all over his face when he cried last weekend.  I had never seen him cry like this before.  He cried quietly.  As I held him in my arms the tears welled up and started streaming down his face.  He looked over my shoulder at the wall behind me.

I asked him what was the matter.  After a bit of questioning we established that he had done something naughty.  When I asked him what naughty thing he had done he said “throw mud”.

I’ve since established that he threw a car and that it hit his 13 year old cousin.  I’ve also established that his cousin was crying.

My son wasn’t just with his dad last weekend.  He was with the whole family.  He was with all of my former in-laws.  What I don’t know is how my in-laws reacted when my son threw a car and hit is cousin.

co-parenting trouble

I don’t know, but I can imagine.

I can imagine that my ex’s twin sister, and mother of my son’s cousin, went berserk.  She has always been volatile, and being around her is like walking on egg shells.  I imagine that she screamed and yelled at my son and at my ex.  My son is not used to shouting.  This will have scared him.

I can imagine that faced with his sister’s yelling, my ex felt obliged to take a hard line with my son.  Ordinarily my son is allowed to throw things, climb the bookshelves and jump on the sofa when he is with his father.  He is not allowed to do any of these things when he is with me.  I imagine that the sudden change in what is acceptable and my ex’s hard line approach, which could also have involved shouting –  my ex has a short temper – will have scared him.

I can imagine that a conversation ensued about how I, as my son’s mother, am to blame and am doing a terrible job, and that my son is disadvantaged because he is from a broken home.  In my in-laws’ minds I am  to blame, because I made the decision to leave my ex.  Although my son wouldn’t have understood everything, he understands some words and would most definitely have picked up on the atmosphere and tone of the conversation.  This will have scared him. 

I don’t know what I can do about this. 

I can cuddle my son, and reassure him, and allow him to be clingy and try to encourage him out of his nervousness and reticence.

I can’t be sure what happened, because I know my ex will never tell me, and I know that my son can’t. 

What I don’t know is haunting me. 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
And then the fun began...

Net-curtain-gate: spying spinster strikes again

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I am a net-curtain twitcher, a spying spinster extraordinaire.  The Tate Modern saga and net-curtain-gate therefore piqued my interest immediately and I had to see the performance drama for myself.

Although I am not at home much during the day, from my balcony window I can see the comings and goings of all my neighbours in my block of flats. 

I know, for example, that my neighbour at number 13 goes to the gym quite regularly but always drives his car there despite the gym being a mere 200 metres down the road.   

I know that the upstairs family have a dog (which is contravenes the conditions of their lease) and that the father takes said dog for a walk at around 20:45 every evening.  He is out for about 20 minutes and, more often than not, he is on his phone.  I haven’t yet worked out who he speaks to, but I will. 

I know that my downstairs neighbour leaves her flat with her wheelie suitcase at about 16:40 and returns just before 21:00.  I am intrigued and baffled by what is in her wheelie suitcase and have spent many hours fantasising about the salacious or criminal enterprises that the wheelie suitcase may disguise.   In fact I have spent so many hours fantasising about the contents of the wheelie suitcase that I have even written a blog post about it.  

Tate Modern’s net-curtain gate is right up my street.  A bit of background for those of you who don’t know the story: Tate Modern, near Waterloo station in London has built an extension, an awesome and commandeering architectural feat of sharp angles on the outside, housing smooth curves and importantly large hanging spaces for modern art on the inside.  Most importantly for this story though is the 360 degree viewing gallery on the 10th floor. 

Since the extension has opened hundreds of thousands of visitors have bypassed the art heading straight for the elevators and up to the 10th floor.  The viewing gallery rivals the Shard, the London Eye and Monument for spectacular images of London. 

In my view, however, the Tate Modern wins hands down because of this:




Look carefully.   

You can see right into these flats.  You can see the swanky sofas, the artwork, the books on shelves. 

You can see the inhabitants drinking coffee, reading the paper,  trying hard to look cool.  You can see their Filipino maids hoovering the rug and polishing the glass coffee table. 

The viewing gallery is open in the evenings and you can see the cross words, the arguments, the TV dinners and amorous embraces. 

This, my friends, is pure performance drama.

Now it won’t surprise you to hear that the inhabitants of these £4.5million flats have complained to the head of the Tate, Nicolas Serota, who offered a curt and cutting retort:

“they should buy net curtains”. 

Thus net-curtain-gate began.  Net curtains?  Insult of insults! 

I feel little sympathy with the inhabitants of these flats.  Anyone who buys a flat by a modernist architect knows that it will have no privacy.  Modernist architects don’t do walls. They do glass.  Duh!

The plans for the Tate Modern were available when the flats were sold.  Any sensible buyer would have checked the plans. 

My message to the inhabitants of these flats:  Embrace the drama, live the saga, play to your audience, outwit them with your humour. 

If you can’t stand the performance, then get off the stage!

My Random Musings

Delight and disappointment: dating app reviews

I have a love / hate relationship with dating apps.  In fact I have a love / hate relationship with dating. 

I love the idea of dating: the anticipation; the optimism I feel that I might actually meet someone interesting; the potential for a couple of months of excitement and butterflies that you get in the early stages of a relationship.    

I hate the fact that dating is so often disappointing.  I hate the moment when you see your date approach your pre-arranged meeting point and you know, within seconds, that you don’t fancy him, and that the next hour or so could be torturous. 

I hate dating apps.  They really suck, but you’d be forgiven for believing that I love them if you knew the amount of time I spend swiping (usually left). 

Let me give you a tour of the five dating apps that I have had on my phone in the last six months or so.

Tinder (Score : 3/10)

Haha, Tinder!

Tinder is infamous.  It is commonly known as a hook-up app.  In fact I was in a meeting at work a couple of months ago and somehow, don’t ask me how, the conversation progressed to dating apps.  My boss informed the room that Tinder was “a dating app for those who just want sex.  It is the heterosexual equivalent of Grindr.  I decided not to mention that I had Tinder on my phone; probably not a wise admission for anyone seeking a half decent performance appraisal.

Dating App Reviews

My boss is wrong.  Tinder isn’t just about sex and hook-ups.  I have had a few Tinder dates and neither me nor my dates were there to hook up. One of my Tinder dates informed me that in Los Angeles (where he had been living for eighteen months) people use Tinder as a social app; an app for those who want to make new friends but want neither sex nor a relationship.  I am not sure how true this is, but I nodded approvingly.

Tinder is free and is really simple to use.  It links to Facebook, from which it takes your photos and you can have an account up and running in less than a minute.   If you live in a big city like London, you could probably spend 24 hours swiping and still not run out of potential dates.  You can waste hours, literally hours, and you could probably get some pretty severe repetitive strain injury from all of the swiping too. 

The opportunities are endless, and so, I’m afraid, are the bare chested men, the sedated tigers, the men astride motorbikes, the occasional dick pic and the photos that were probably taken a decade ago. 

I am British, a prude, and for better or for worse, I have the stereotypical British stiff upper lip.  After the my boss’ proclamation that Tinder users just want sex I deleted Tinder. 

E-harmony (1/10)

E-harmony was around seven years ago when I was last dating.  At that time though it was just a website rather than an app.  I now have the app version on my phone and have paid an annual subscription (about £35 a quarter). 

I am not a fan of e-harmony and wish I hadn’t committed such a huge amount of money.   The app feels clunky, messy and old fashioned.

You get more detailed profiles on e-harmony than on any other app.  You feel that, if someone bothers to fill their profile out, you might actually get to know something about them. 

The problem is that detailed descriptions and lengthy paragraphs don’t lend themselves to smartphones.  I don’t bother reading.  I am as superficial as everyone else on a dating app and I will make a decision based on the photo.  If a potential match passes the photo test then I might read the blurb, but then again, I might not. 

The most depressing thing about e-harmony is the activity page.  The activity page tells you when someone has added a new photo to their profile or updated their blurb, or sent you a smile (an utterly pointless feature on this app).  The activity page also tells you when someone has viewed your profile.   

The activity page is depressing because there is NO ACTIVITY on e-harmony.  Nothing happens.  People pay their subscriptions, but when nothing happens they ignore the app. They don’t delete their profiles because they’ve paid a subscription, they just don’t bother checking in. 

As you can probably tell, I am more than a bit annoyed about the money I’ve wasted on my e-harmony subscription.

Once (5.5/10)

This is the most recent dating app download onto my phone.  I really want to like this app.  It is clean. It looks smart.  I like the frog with a crown on its head. 

Once, as the name might suggest, pings you one potential match every 24 hours.  At midday every day you receive your ‘match’.  A digital clock counts down the hours, minutes and seconds until you receive your next match. 

Dating app reviewsDating app reviewsIt took me a while to realise that, unlike on Tinder for example, a ‘match’ isn’t actually a ‘match’ until you both ‘like’ each other.  Your ‘match’ then becomes a ‘connection’ and you can start chatting…apparently.

I say apparently because, in the two weeks or so that I have been on this dating app, I haven’t had a ‘connection’.  This is partly because I decline quite a few of the ‘matches’ pinged in my direction, and those that I don’t decline clearly decline me.   

When I first signed up to Once the connections page merely said “No connections yet!”.  It now says “But don’t worry there’s someone out there for you…”    Hmmm ????

Unlike most dating apps, Once is not purely based on algorithms.  There are apparently real humans in their offices, playing God (or maybe Satan) and trying to match us up. I have an image in my head of rows and rows of ‘match-makers’ sitting in front of their apple macs desperately trying to match us all up.   In my head the match-makers have my picture up on the wall under a title “the undateables”, “the unmatchables”, the “not a hope in hell”. 

Once is a new app and it is really pushing for dating app dominance.  Almost everyday there is some new functionality, a new offer, a new opportunity to spend some money.   I can pick my ‘match’ for tomorrow (if I pay £1). I can get another ‘match’ instantly rather than waiting until midday tomorrow (if I pay £1). I can send a message to a ‘match’ before a ‘match’ becomes a ‘connection’ (if I pay £1, although I suspect that the recipient would also have to spend a £1 to read my message).  I can pay for my own personal matchmaker and can chat through my own personal preferences (I suspect this would cost more than £1).   In a nutshell, I can spend an absolute fortune and still not get a ‘connection’.

I really want to like this app, but I fear that if I let myself have a love affair with Once I will soon be bankrupt. 

Coffee meets Bagel  (3/10)

Dating app reviewsI think this app is big in the US.  In many ways, Coffee meets Bagel is similar to Once.  Coffee meets Bagel is supposed to send you one ‘bagel’ a day.  A ‘bagel’ is essentially a profile of a potential match.  You then have  24 hours to decide whether you want to ‘like’ or ‘pass’ on your bagel. If you like your ‘bagel’ and they have also liked you, you’ll connect, meaning that you’ll be able to message one another in a private chat.   I found that I received four or five ‘bagels’ each day (I couldn’t work out why) but that I really didn’t like any of them.  I have to say that after that I just got a bit bored. 

Then my I-phone was running out of memory.  I sacrificed my Coffee meets Bagel download.  I think I’ll survive.

Bumble ( 7/10)

And last, but not least, is Bumble.  Bumble looks and feels like Tinder.   You swipe right if you like him, left if you don’t. There is still a lot of swiping left. 

When I first downloaded Tinder a friend of mine told me that ‘Tinder etiquette’ dictated that women should not message first.  I got loads and loads of matches on Tinder but weeks would pass without a conversation.   Men are rubbish when it comes to messaging. 

Dating app reviews

On Bumble the woman always makes the first move, and if you don’t say something to a new connection within 24 hours, that connection disappears forever.  This means that you don’t get so many dick pics on Bumble (although I have had one – totally unsolicited I can assure you).  It also means that you don’t get hundreds of matches and no conversation.

If you pay an extra £1.99 a month you can upgrade your Bumble account so that you can see who has already swiped right on your profile, thereby indicating that they like you.  This means that you don’t have to spend hours swiping without receiving any matches. 

Each day I get a couple of dozen men who have swiped right on my profile.  If I swipe right on them I get a match instantly.  This is much more efficient for the time poor.  

Now, logic dictates that this business model only works if the majority of Bumble users do not pay the £1.99 subscription each month.  If we all waited for someone else to swipe right first then none of us would ever get any matches. 

Do you have any dating app recommendations?  How do you find the dating world in 2016?

My Random MusingsAnd then the fun began...Brilliant blog posts on

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Single mum myths and the lies behind them

I have been a single mum for about eighteen months now.  It has been an adventure.  There are some great things about being a single mum, things that make me really proud to be part of the single parent community. There are also some things about being a single mum that are really tough.  The toughest thing about being a single mum is facing the single mum myths that are out there.

single mum myths

Let’s explore a few of these single mum myths:

  1. Our kids are not baggage.  I can’t tell you how many dating profiles I have read where men put on their profiles that they have “no children, no ex-wife, no baggage”.  Well, I’d say that their ignorance is pretty heavy baggage.  Grrrrrr.  
  2. Single mums are not desperate for a dad for our kids.  Our kids often have a dad, and often, whether we like it or not, the dad is still on the scene and involved, to some degree, in their kids’ lives.  If they are not on the scene it’s also fine because single mums are just great at being great.
  3. Kids of single mums do not suffer.  The only disadvantage that kids of single mums face is the judgemental attitude that others have towards their mother.  Trust me, I feel this judgement daily.  
  4. Only a small percentage of single mums are on benefits, and those that are really need to be.   That is the point of the benefits system, it helps those who need help.  A lot of single mums work.  Some single mums are highly successful. If there is one thing that is probably true of all single mums, it is that single motherhood makes us more resilient, determined and gives us a great sense of perspective.  Many of us are better in the workplace because of this! 
  5. Single mums are not all teenagers.  In fact the average age of a single mum in the UK is 37.  I would love to be in my teens, but unfortunately I am not.
  6. Single mums are not trying to steal your husband or boyfriend.  We have the double bed all to ourselves.  We sleep like a star fish in the middle of it.  We rarely have to change the sheets because without a man in the bed they just don’t get dirty.  It’s brilliant! 
  7. Single mums don’t resent happy couples.  We are happy for them, like really happy.  A happy couple can reinforce our decision to leave the father of our child.  Now this may irk a few of you, but happy marriages don’t end in divorce. Sorry! If we are honest with ourselves, our marriages, if indeed we were married, were probably not happy ones. 
  8. Single mums didn’t mess anything up.  Many of us are really proud to be single mums. Many of us chose to embark upon this journey as single mums from the outset.  We are single mums by choice.  Single motherhood has made us better people.
  9. Single mums are often very happy.  We have great kids.  We have a hell of a lot to be happy about.

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
And then the fun began...


“Surely you want to grow old with someone”

“ Surely you want to grow old with someone ” he said.

“I do” I replied, “but I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to grow old.”

I had another disastrous date the other night.  Well perhaps it wasn’t disastrous and perhaps it wasn’t even a date. I met a guy for a drink.  We met at 10:30pm at Waterloo.  We walked along London’s Southbank.  We stopped at a bar.  He had a diet coke.  I had a glass of wine.  We then walked back along London’s Southbank.  He jumped in a taxi and I got the train. 

He was a bit weird, but I quite like weird.  He was super intelligent, but I like super intelligent.  He was more than a bit geeky, but I quite like that too. 

He was also French and I go weak at the knees for French men. 

Now the slightly sad thing about Tinder-style dating encounters is that fairly early on in your meeting or date, you will probably have a conversation about why you are on said dating app and what you are looking for. 

I met this guy on Bumble which is like Tinder but apparently “changes the rules of dating by putting women in charge”.    

It doesn’t change the rules that much and the same old conversation ensued.

We established that neither of us really wanted a relationship.  I explained that work, being a single mum and life in general leave me very little time and I don’t feel that I have time to nurture a relationship.  I didn’t go into the detailed description of my life being three planets being held apart by delicate magnetic fields, but that is what I was talking about.

I also explained that one night stands are not my thing.  I told him that I had never had a one night stand.  This is not entirely true.  I did have a one night stand many years ago.  It was terrible and I don’t intend to repeat it. 

I explained that I would like someone to meet up with for a drink.  I want friendship.  I want the occasional theatre and cinema companion.  I want to spend some time with someone with whom I can have an interesting conversation.  I would like to meet someone with whom I can occasionally have sex.   

He nodded giving me the impression that “friends with benefits”,  which I think is the correct term for the above, was also what he was after.   

But, after our date that wasn’t even a date he blocked me on whatsapp.   So, I am guessing that he didn’t want “friends with benefits” after all.

There was one comment he made during our non-date that I have been reflecting on since.  He said “surely you want to grow old with someone”.  I replied that “I do want to grow old with someone, but I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to grow old.’ 

I have already written about how being a single mum has made me a commitment-phobe.  But the idea of growing old with someone and companionship in my old age is important. 

I listened to a wonderful podcast the other day about a 70 year old woman (Eve) and an 80 year old man (Sam) who met and married each other late in life.  Eve, telling her story after Sam’s death, told of the excitement of when they first met when she was nearing 70 and he 80, of their courtship, of their joint 150th birthday party to celebrate his 80th and her 70th. 

grow old with someone

Eve recounted a conversation with her new amour about his late wife who had died six years before they met. “I know you love Betty and that you will always love Betty, but I think you have room in your heart for me too”. Eve bought her new husband flowers on the anniversary of his late wife’s death.  There was no competition nor rivalry, just love, respect for the life that the other had had and a tender appreciation of the other’s feelings.

Eve had been married twice before and was twice divorced.  She observed that their love was tender because they each knew who they were, their history had taught them what was important.  Status, pretension, ego, aggression and rivalry had gone and what was left was the space for love.

As I listened to this story of love close to the metaphorical finish line I pondered the question posed by my non-date the other night. I concluded that yes I probably do want to grow old with someone, but I have a lifetime to grow old, life is good and, for now, I am a long way from the finish line. 

You can listen to the New York Times Modern Love podcast episode The Race grows sweeter near its final lap here. 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
And then the fun began...


Breastfeeding was my dirty secret

By the time my son was a year old breastfeeding was my dirty secret.

I fought incredibly hard to breastfeed my son, Cygnet.  I breastfed a bit in the hospital after birth. Or at least I thought I did.  I was never actually sure whether Cygnet got any milk or whether he was just there latched on for comfort. The midwives insisted on giving him formula in the hospital.  They were really busy. They were lovely but they didn’t have the time to help me with the whole breastfeeding thing.

It took about a week for my milk to come in. I was never actually sure when it did.  Cygnet lost over 10% of his birth weight.   The midwives recommended that I supplement with formula at every feed.  I was instructed to breastfeed for twenty minutes at the beginning of each feeding session and then top him up with as much formula as he wanted. 

He wanted more and more formula…and I felt more and more like a failure. 

There is nothing so crushing for a new mother as the feeling that you are unable to provide for your child. 

It took weeks, in fact about six weeks, for me to be convinced that I was actually producing milk and even then I googled constantly for tips on how to increase milk supply. I took fenugreek. I drank breastfeeding teas. I ate oats in abundance. I expressed like a demon.

My now ex said that I should give up.  He accused me of starving our child with my stubbornness. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to express milk every two hours.  I gradually reduced the amount of formula that I was giving Cygnet. His weight was creeping up.  And by about eight weeks I was able to cut out the formula altogether. 

Breastfeeding was never easy, but I was incredibly proud of myself for doing it.  I am incredibly proud of myself for my strength and perseverance. 

Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and I am not even convinced that breast is always best.  The last thing I want this to be is a preachy post.  It isn’t.  I was proud of myself for breastfeeding because it was important and personal to me. 

Cygnet is now two, and I gave up breastfeeding a week ago.

breastfeeding was my dirty secret

When Cygnet was 6 weeks old I congratulated myself because I was still breastfeeding.

When Cygnet was 3 months old I congratulated myself because I was still breastfeeding.

When Cygnet was 6 months old I congratulated myself for achieving my 6 month breastfeeding goal.

When I returned to work when Cygnet was 7 months I congratulated myself for continuing to feed him in the morning, before he went to bed and then for a ‘dream feed’ at 10:30pm.

By the time Cygnet turned 12 months old it felt like breastfeeding was my dirty secret. 

I no longer breastfed anywhere but at home.  I stopped talking about breastfeeding.  I stopped wearing maternity bras.  I prayed that Cygnet would not grab at my breasts when we were out of the flat. 

But I was really enjoying breastfeeding and Cygnet was enjoying it too.  Breastfeeding was a nice part of our routine.  Breastfeeding enabled us to connect before I went to work and again at the end of the day when I returned.  It was really important for both of us.   

I separated with Cygnet’s father when Cygnet was five and a half months old.  I contemplated stopping breastfeeding when I started sleeping with someone when Cygnet was about eighteen months old. I never told the guy that I was breastfeeding, and I would get a bit nervous when he touched my breasts.  Breastfeeding was my dirty secret and I am lucky that I have never been a leaker!  Sex with someone who isn’t the father of your child when you are still breastfeeding feels a bit strange. 

But I didn’t want to give up.  My desire to breastfeed had eclipsed the sun.  I was proud of myself for having made it work.  I knew that, as a newly single mum in her mid-30s, this was probably going to be my only chance to breastfeed.  I just wasn’t ready to give up. 

I finally gave up last week.  The time had come.  Our breastfeeding sessions had got shorter and shorter.  Cygnet wasn’t really taking any milk.  I didn’t feel that I was really producing any.  Our night time routine includes lots of cuddles.  I didn’t feel that we needed the breastfeeding any more and neither did Cygnet. 

On the first night I took him for a play date after nursery.  He was so tired when we got home that he fell straight asleep.

On the second night he stayed overnight at his Daddy’s house. 

On the third night he seemed satisfied with the explanation that “boobies have gone away”.  The high necked t-shirt helped.

On the fourth night he didn’t even ask.

He was definitely ready.  We were both ready.

I don’t miss it now.  It was the right time to give up.  I am still incredibly proud of myself and I will cherish the extended breastfeeding memories. 

Goodbye breastfeeding.  For now, and probably forever. 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Reflections From Me

We met when we were almost young

I heard a lot of Leonard Cohen’s music as I was growing up.  He was one of my mother’s favourites: my father always said Leonard Cohen’s music was music to slit your wrists to, but my mother listened nonetheless.

Some of his music and lyrics are morose.  Some his music is hauntingly beautiful and will bring a tear to your eye. 

Earlier this month I read the heartbreaking note that Leonard Cohen, who is now eighty years old, wrote to his onetime lover and muse Marianne Ihlen shortly before she died from leukaemia on July 29th this year. 

Cohen met Marianne Ihlen on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960.  They lived together for nearly a decade and Ihlen was the inspiration for one of Cohen’s most famous songs ‘So Long Marianne’.  I invite you to listen if you don’t know it.  My favourite lyric is “ we met when we were almost young ”.

Marianne Ihlen’s friend contacted Cohen in July to inform him that she only had days to live.  Leonard Cohen responded a couple of hours later with the following letter:

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.  Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.  And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that.  But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.  Goodbye old friend.  Endless love, see you down the road.”

The simplicity, grace and romanticism of his lyrics and of the letter makes one marvel at the beauty and depth of feeling in his words and at the profundity of his love. 

That’s unless you know that Leonard Cohen had many lovers and many muses throughout his lifetime.  Marianne was not even the only muse and lover to make it to the back of an album cover.  Those of you who know his music will know that Suzanne was also immortalised in his beautifully captivating lyrics. 

Let me introduce you to Suzanne:

So, I think it is probably quite clear that Leonard Cohen’s songs Suzanne and So Long Marianne are not actually about his lovers and muses Suzanne and Marianne.  These songs and lyrics were about Leonard Cohen and how he saw himself within the world.

Let’s not be bitter though.  I would be happy to be a disposable lover and muse if I could be immortalised in such enchanting poetry. 

Leonard Cohen … if only we met when we were almost young. 

Rhyming with Wine
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

How to stay sane when you can’t afford therapy

I think Americans have a much healthier attitude towards therapy.  A survey by the American Psychological Association suggests that nearly half of all American households have had someone seek mental health treatment this year.  This feels like a lot, but it also feels right.  Sometimes we need therapy to help us to stay sane.

In the US, therapy is a way of looking after your mental health, of re-establishing your equilibrium, of voicing your troubles in order to fend of anxiety, depression and upset.  We need to recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health.  And we all need therapy once in a while.

In the UK, the British ‘stiff upper lip’; our tendency to display fortitude in the face of adversity and to exercise self restraint in the expression of emotion, is endemic.  Therapy, more commonly known in the UK as counselling, is seen as a weakness. We only go to counselling when there is a real problem, when marriages are truly on the rocks, as a cure for some personality disorder, or when we are seriously depressed.  

We need to ditch our British ‘stiff upper lips’.  We need to say when things aren’t going great.  We need to be more proactive and more protective of our mental health.  Sometimes we all need a little support when life threatens to overwhelm us, when anxiety is chasing us and when depression is knocking at our door and when we are struggling to stay sane. 

Normally, I am a very balanced person.  I don’t have great highs or great lows in my emotional state.  In fact I have spent a lot of my life wishing that I felt the highs more acutely … and have recognised that this requires feeling the lows more painfully too.

This is what Pen’s emotions look like most of the time:

stay sane

So, in a nutshell, I am generally quite a happy person.  I am not ecstatic or over excitable, in fact I am quite a cool customer.  I don’t generally get very down and if I do it is usually only for a day or so and usually tallies quite nicely with my menstrual cycle. I can stay sane.  Easy!

But in 2015, the shit hit the fan.  I realised that my relationship was breaking down and that trying to save it was not the right thing to do.  You can read about my relationship breakdown here.   This is how I felt in 2015: 

stay sane

My ex was an a**e.  He was vile.  He took my baby out of my arms while I was feeding him to see his mother (Cygnet’s Granny).  He said that I was emotional and hormonal and not capable of making decisions. He looked at me with contempt and disdain.  He yelled.  He slammed his fists on the table in front of me. He would stand outside of my room shouting and another thing, and another thing.  

I felt a failure as a person, as a woman, as a fiancée and worst of all as a mother. Accounts of this are in some of my early blog posts.  How to stay sane was high on my agenda, but unfortunately not on my list of achievements.  I never want to go back there. 

Cygnet and I moved into our own flat eventually, but we were sharing a house with my ex for what felt like an eternity (but was actually only four and a half months).  It has taken me a long while to rebuild myself, to relight the fire in my belly, just to recognise myself as me again. 

I had decided that I was going to get counselling.  In fact I wrote a blog post on how I had decided to get counselling to improve my emotional well-being because I was failing to stay sane.  I never did.  I was advised not to by a friend that if our case ever went to a family court, my counselling would only serve to prove my ex’s point that I was emotional and hormonal.  There’s that British ‘stiff upper lip’ again.

I pushed on and gradually things got better.  I am really lucky to have the support of my family.  They really helped me.  My flat began to feel like my own.  I like my new area.  I have made some good friends.  The barrage of angry texts and emails from my ex has slowed down and I have gradually learned how to cope with his demands.

Most of the time things are good now, in fact those of you have read my post about happiness levels after divorce, will know things are more than just good, they are great!  But, every so often I am thrust back to and reminded of that dark place.  

This week, my ex lingered in the flat for longer than normal when he dropped Cygnet home.  He sat down on the sofa and I knew that he wanted something.  He asked to have a look in Cygnet’s bedroom.  He claimed that he wanted to see what toys Cygnet had so that he didn’t buy the same toy for Cygnet’s forthcoming birthday.  I didn’t feel I could say no without an argument.  My ex got up and wandered off to Cygnet’s room. 

He seemed to be there for an age and eventually I left the lounge where Cygnet was playing to see what my ex was doing.  He wasn’t in Cygnet’s room but was in the hall browsing the pictures on the wall.  It sounds like nothing, but I was thrust back to those dark times.  I felt that my safe place had been invaded again.  My ex had come back into it.  It felt like he was marking his territory. 

This sounds like something and nothing.  This sounds like I am exaggerating and being melodramatic.  Perhaps I am.  

I should have gone to counselling in 2015.  I should have sought help.  I was extremely anxious.  I was a little depressed. I wasn’t able to cope with my ex’s outbursts.  I think I would have come out the other end of my low phase more quickly had I had professional help.

Now that things have normalised and I am back on an even keel, I focus a lot on my emotional well-being and I know what my triggers are to stay sane.  I have identified my coping mechanisms and I know what to do if I feel a little off kilter. Sleep is really important, as is a bubble bath, a nice meal and treating myself to some Lindt 90% cocoa dark chocolate.

I buy myself a bunch of flowers every week.  Although I only spend about £2:50 a week on flowers it feels really extravagant.  It is really extravagant – flowers die within five days, but I like looking at them, they make the room look nice and they smell nice.  They improve my mood and this is important.  

After my ex invaded my flat I needed a walk.  I couldn’t have one because Cygnet was in bed and I would obviously never leave him.  I sat on my balcony, in the cool dark evening and drank a cup of tea.  I sat in silence without my i-phone or laptop.  It was restorative. It sounds lonely and morose but that half an hour in the dark silence on my balcony enabled me to re-find the balance that my ex had disrupted.

2015 also taught me the importance of maintaining a sense of perspective to preserve my emotional well-being.  A lot of things sucked in 2015.  In fact most things sucked in 2015.  But Cygnet was awesome.  My family were great.  Work was okay.  So although it felt like my whole life was falling apart, I knew that life wasn’t always tough and not everything was tough.  Things had been great in the past, and there were moments of greatness in the present.  I could be confident that things would be great again.

They say that keeping a diary is an excellent way to focus and to understand your emotions.  I have used my blog as therapy  this last year.  And what an excellent friend and therapist Pen @thesingleswan has been.  I have no doubt that Pen will help me to stay sane in the months and years to come.   

Rhyming with Wine


My Random Musings
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Curiosity killed the cat…and my Tinder relationship

It was not my proudest moment, although I very much doubt it was my worst.  A couple of months ago I made the decision to stop seeing a guy I’d met on Tinder because of posts that he had made on Facebook about Brexit.  He had voted ‘Leave’ and those of you who have read my posts about Brexit (and this one) will know that I was struggling to come to terms with our Brexit decision.  My curiosity killed my Tinder relationship.


I am not ashamed of my decision to stop seeing the guy.  I know from his ‘leave’ vote that we don’t share the same core values or identity and that a relationship would never have a future.

I am however ashamed of two things.  First, I am ashamed that I learned of his ‘leave’ vote not through a conversation with him, but rather through my daily snooping of his Facebook posts and his Tweets on Twitter.  Secondly, I am ashamed that I didn’t tell him that I didn’t want to see him again. I just went silent.  I stopped replying to his messages and eventually he stopped sending them.  I couldn’t explain that his ‘leave’ vote meant that we didn’t have a future, not even a casual one, because he hadn’t told me that he had voted ‘leave’.  I had learned this through my snooping on Facebook. 

I snooped daily and compulsively, knowing that his Facebook posts about Brexit would continue to anger me.  I knew that the mature option would have been to talk to him and to explore his reasons for voting ‘leave’.  But I couldn’t, I didn’t, I continued to snoop perhaps in some vain hope that it was all a nasty joke. 

I was relieved to discover a recent study by the University of Chicago and Wisconsin School of Business which reassured me that my curiosity, even when I knew that what I would find would hurt and anger me, is only human.  In a series of four experiments, behavioural scientists tested students’ willingness to expose themselves to small electric shocks to satisfy their curiosity.  Electric shocks abounded and they found that the drive to discover is deeply ingrained in humans.  As the review in Scientific American sums up: “The need to know is so strong that people will seek to slake their curiosity even when it is clear that the answer will hurt”.

So, while this study doesn’t absolve me of my snooping shame and it certainly doesn’t absolve me of the dishonourable way in which I ended the relationship, it does at least reassure me that curiosity is human and mine is probably not the only Tinder relationship to have been killed. 

Do you have any snooping stories you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

P.S.  Want to read more about this single mom on Tinder ?  Read this and this.   You can also read more about my thoughts as a single mom on the dating scene in the dating category above.   

Rhyming with Wine


My Random Musings
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Happiness levels increase after divorce – FACT!

This evening I stumbled across a piece of research conducted by Kingston University which found that happiness levels increase after divorce. 

Over the course of two decades, researchers regularly questioned 10,000 U.K. citizens between the ages of 16 and 60 about their happiness levels before and after major life milestones.    The research showed that women are significantly more content, and men slightly happier, after divorce.

happiness levels increase after divorce

Now, those of you who pay attention to the finer details of my blog, will know that I am not actually a divorcee.  I broke off the engagement four months before the big day.  I never walked down the aisle in a big white dress.  Being staunchly secular I would never have walked down the aisle anyway, and a big white dress is hardly my scene either (give me a little black dress any day) but you catch my drift. 

I called off the wedding, but I did however have a really posh afternoon tea just with my close family to celebrate my ‘narrow escape’.  On the weekend that I was due to be married I spent two days with my close family.  We stayed in a lovely London hotel and had champagne afternoon tea at sketch.  It was a great weekend and I am so glad that I came to my senses and called the whole thing off.

So, although I am not officially a divorcee it sure as hell felt like I went through a divorce.  A child together, a cat, a jointly owned house and mortgage and a six year relationship feel like a marriage to me.  We just never had the fancy photos and nice cake.   

The Kingston University research finding that happiness levels increase after divorce really struck me because it is so absolutely true. 

Following my…I don’t really know what to call it…my almost-a-divorce, I feel liberated.  I feel empowered.  I feel in control of my future.  I feel in control of my time (not that I do have much of my own time but that which I do have I sure as hell like to control). 

There is no atmosphere in the flat.  There is none of his mess for me to clean up.  I don’t have be dragged down by his tales of woe (“the washer on the kitchen tap needs replacing”, “my joints ache”, “my blood sugar is low”, “we can’t afford to live in this house”).  My ex was the archetypal glass half empty type.  How ever big or small the issue, he would feel the need to wallow in it … and I found it exhausting.

Now, I can hang my pictures where I want them. I can buy fresh flowers without his scorn.  I can stay up late or go to bed early.  I don’t have to watch documentaries about the first world war.   We don’t have to have a cupboard to house three sets of golf clubs all for an annual golfing weekend. 

More importantly though (because flowers, documentaries and golf clubs are hardly grounds for divorce), I don’t have to see his look of contempt and disappointment when I don’t cook a meal the way his mother cooked it, or when I am quieter than he thinks I should be at a party, or when I need my hair done and my roots are showing or I am still carrying my post pregnancy weight.  I don’t have to suffer his loving and charming façade in public and his disdain and disappointment in private. 

We are co-parenting, so I still have to see him a few times a week, and co-parenting with my ex is nothing if not a challenge, but I don’t have to live with him and we are not married, and for that I am thankful, and immensely proud of myself every single day. 

Do you want to know the best thing about the Kingston University study which found that happiness levels increase after divorce? Well, let me tell you.  The study found that women (not men…) are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages, even more so than their average or baseline level of happiness throughout their lives. 

Happiness levels increase after divorce, I am having the time of my life, and (hehee, big grin) according to Kingston University I will continue to do so for about another three and a half years.


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