Fallen leaves – a sorry isolation

Logo_brexit_new_size2I voted IN.

I have to admit; I didn’t watch and analyse the debates. I tried, but I couldn’t stand to watch pompous public schoolboys throw shit at each other. Besides, I knew I was going to vote Remain, and no one, not even God – even if he had appeared in glowing white robes, pointed at me, and declaimed THOU SHALT VOTE LEAVE LIKE THAT GOOD HONEST GUY FUCKWIT FARAGE – no one would have convinced me to tick the Leave box.

It’s because I have a fundamental sense of being European. My great grandmother was French, from Rouen, and inexplicably settled down with a South Yorkshire boy in Sheffield. Her youngest son, my grandfather, spoke perfect French and fought with The Resistance in the Second World War. As a consequence, my Dad is a Francophile, and we spent our 70s’ summers pottering through France in our tiny caravan. My Dad would spend hours planning our French tours, confirming each campsite weeks before by letter in French. Occasionally we would venture further afield, through Germany and Austria and touching the top of the Italian boot. I remember climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa and thinking ‘crikey – this is dangerous’. I remember taking a gondola ride in Venice and thinking ‘crikey – this is smelly’. I also remember the toilets on the Italian campsites (one memory I’d rather erase).

In my 20s, my soon-to-be husband and I toured round France in his falling apart, and wholly British, TVR. I’d tried to emulate my Dad’s organisational skills but found it all rather stressful. Navigating round the Peripherique turned out to be an experience not to be repeated, and getting stuck on a speed bump in a French council estate wasn’t our finest hour, but the Logis we stayed in – some overlooking busy market squares, one in Amboise facing onto the castle – were unforgettable. Then there was the mix up when a hotelier said to us ‘Voulez vous la voir?’ (do you want to see it?) and I thought she said ‘Voulez vous lavoir?’ (you want a wash-house?). I thought maybe a wash house was a local way of saying toilet, so I just said ‘Oui’ and waited for the next question. She disappeared, reappearing 5 minutes later saying, more urgently ‘Voulez vous LA VOIR’? ‘OUI’, I said, loudly. She went off. We didn’t move. And so it continued.

I feel connected to the French. I look French. I’ve watched Spiral. I’ve got ‘A’ level French, so I practically AM French. But it’s not all about France. We are, essentially, a European nation. This article suggests that most of us (although interestingly, not necessarily the Welsh) are 30% German. So yes, if Germany win the Euros, please allow yourselves a tiny internal celebration. And if you fancy a blub, watch this video: http://www.momondo.co.uk/letsopenourworld/

In leaving the EU, we have figuratively put up two fingers to the rest of Europe. We don’t like you, you can’t run things properly, we don’t like your rules, your mum smells of garlic, you can’t queue in an orderly fashion. We’ve never bothered to learn your language and we’re glad we didn’t waste the time. If we come and visit you in the future, we’ll speak English EVEN MORE LOUDLY AND SLOWLY. We might get drunk and throw some empty bottles about if you’re lucky. We were utterly brilliant once and we’re going to be brilliant again. Oh, and don’t forget – we won the war.

We are not brilliant. We are pompous and arrogant. I’m tired of reading social media comments that roll around and around the idea that we’re a great nation because ‘we won the war’. We didn’t; we joined many other countries – Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, United States, USSR, Yugoslavia – and worked together to stamp out a blinkered, ugly tyrannical force.

We could certainly not have ‘won the war’ on our own. And I suppose that’s my point. Whichever way you look at it, we do not control an empire any more. We are a tiny country with limited influence.  Our education process is broken (the Dutch, Germans, Austrians, Polish all have better education standards than us), our NHS – once admired across the world, is crumbling.  We bang on about our bulldog spirit, but bulldogs have a shedload of health issues, don’t they?

We need people around us. To trade with, to work with, to partner up with. To support us (remember the 7/7 attacks? The French Prime Minister, amongst others, gave us ‘the immediate, full and total collaboration of French services to help you identify the authors of these crimes.’). Would he do the same again, now?

What are we good at? What is it, about our nation, that we be proud of?

Well, there’s cheese. And Scotch whisky (although we’ll obviously lose that when the Scottish go independent). There’s steel – oh no, perhaps there isn’t. Hang on, I know – we’ve got Andrew Lloyd Webber. Top Gear (or whatever the new one is called). Stephen Fry. Gardening. The Beatles. Prince Harry.

Yes, you’re right. We’re royally fucked.

So what happens next? Boris will be our next PM.  I’m not too sour about this, as my theory on Boris is that he’ll turn out to be a half decent egg. Yes, he supported Brexit and yes, he can’t brush his own hair. But I reckon he is a clever, manipulative old fish, and just used the Brexit machine to reach his Prime Ministerial goal. He did some good work as Mayor of London and he’s the son of an immigrant, for God’s sake. And besides, what’s – or who’s – the alternative?

There’s a petition going round to have a second referendum. Wouldn’t this be marvelous? Now that we have all Googled ‘What is the EU?’ and found out the answer, we can all vote with confidence this time. And if we do have a second referendum, perhaps the 18-25 bracket will get off their sorry arses and vote. Don’t complain that the oldies stole your voice if you didn’t vote in the first place.

I’m clutching at straws; we’re stuck with this decision of course. The economy will be ok, no doubt. I’m not really worried about that. We’ll stumble on, shored up by The Bank of Gringotts. JP Morgan and co might leave, but we can knock down their offices and build parks and wildflower meadows and bike lanes. It’s jolly good news for bees.The NHS will lurch from crisis to crisis, much as it does now. There’ll be no more money. The Arts will suffer. Employment rights  and conditions will tumble. Food and petrol prices will go up. Bendy cucumbers will be allowed.

But far more troubling is the growing feeling that I don’t fit here anymore, in this weird place that has closed its doors to its neighbours. I’d rather be over there, in their gang, collaborating over Roquefort and Edam and perhaps a cheeky glass of red. So we’ll see how it unfurls; when my kids have left school, perhaps it will be time to finally learn my pluperfect tense, up sticks and join my french cousins. If they’ll still have me, of course.

 

 

 

 

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A Fundy in Lundy

coast

I had long wanted to go to Lundy – mainly to see, and take photos of, puffins. Lundy means ‘Puffin Island’, so where better to go?  I had an internal discussion with myself about whether I should take my teenagers (Pros: good for them to get away; an adventure; prospect of seeing an amazing creature for real – Cons: expensive; we all sleep in the same room where there’ll be farting (and not just from me); I have to put up with their incessant whinging about the poor wifi connection) and after beating myself figuratively around the head, agreed with myself that they should come along. So I booked the Lundy ferry for the three of us, and found a nice B&B for us all to stay for two nights in glorious Ilfracombe.

Someone said to me today that they didn’t like Ilfracombe. I had to shake them very hard as they were obviously deluded. Not like Ilfracombe? The town has got everything going for it. Quaint harbour: tick. Rugged coast line: tick. Thriving Arts centre: tick. Impressive Damien Hurst statue: tick. I LOVE Ilfracombe. Yes, yes, it has a drugs problem – but doesn’t every UK town? (Apart from St Ives. I’m not sure that St Ives has a drug problem.) And yes, it’s a bit tatty and jaded in parts, but doesn’t that add to its charm? And, to top it all, it has amazing sunsets like this:

ilfracombe

So we stayed in lovely, slightly down-at-heel Ilfracombe and, after a MAHOOSIVE cooked breakfast (sod WeightWatchers – we’re on holiday), we legged it down to the harbour to get on the boat, the MS Oldenburg. I’m not an expert on boats but I’d heard on the grapevine that this one has a flat bottom (if only I could say the same) which, in turbulent waters, can lead to sick bags ahoy. Luckily, the sea was as smooth as a millpond and our crossing was vomit-free. Thank God because I didn’t bring a change of clothes for anyone.

It takes two hours to sail to Lundy. I KNOW! It’s about 24 miles from Ilfracombe; that’s like Dover to Calais. In other words, Lundy is practically ABROAD. Actually in the middle of the actual sea. As we travelled west, an eerie haar descended (I’ve been dying to use that word ever since I was six). We could see buggery. As we approached the time when we should have been docking, two attractive, able seamen got out onto the bow – presumably to try to see where the fuck we were going. The Cap’n was going dead slow. I wish there’d been a bell to ring. (There wasn’t.) Amazingly, by the reading of a compass and the stars alone – or possibly by looking at the satnav – the jetty suddenly loomed out of the mist. The Cap’n had judged it perfectly. We had arrived.

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Have you ever been to Iceland? Disembarking on Lundy reminded me of Iceland; its blue waters, low light and black rock. It felt like we’d arrived on a different planet. The path up to the top of the cliff was grey and rubbly and mysterious and actually a bit bloody scary.

path to the top

But by the time we had climbed half way up, we were suddenly above the mist, and all was sunny and bright, like we had broken through a glass ceiling.

We only had four hours until the ferry departed again, and I was desperate to see those bloody puffins. So Plan Puffin was put into place: basically, stuff lunch down as quickly as possible, and then walk to ‘half way wall’ (logically, half way up Lundy) and to Jenny’s Cove, where the puffins were in the middle of some heavy petting and full-on breeding.

My God, what a piece of heaven. Birds. Wild ponies. Seals. Glorious coastline. Peace.

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Birds were everywhere. And so were birdwatchers. A couple in front of us were waxing lyrical about a small brown bird on the path in front of us. “Looks like a sparrow to me,” I said, as I marched past them. The bird got scared and flew off. The couple swore at me.

I didn’t care; I was on my Puffin Mission.

We’d been walking for an hour or so and I was getting worried. Not that the twitcher couple was going to push me off a cliff (although to be honest that may have been on the cards), but that no puffins were presenting themselves. We were peering down cliff edges to see if we could get a snifter – but nothing. Then, in the distance, I saw a man with a long lens nestled into the landscape. That’s it, I thought.  He’s on a Puffin Mission, too. “LEG IT!” I shouted to the boys.

You know that bit in Eurovision when you suddenly realise that the UK are not only not going to win AGAIN, but that our song will not even finish in the top 20? That feeling of utter disappointment? That happened to me when I sat down and looked for the puffins.

They were there, but they were far too far away.

Even with my long 500mm lens, these birds could have been any white breasted beasts. They could all have been replicas of my cat, for all I knew. At best, they looked like penguins. And here’s the proof:

puffins3 this one

And this was taken with a massive fuck off lens! I KNOW!! I mean, obviously they want their privacy, but FOR GOD’S SAKE! We’d come HUNDREDS OF MILES to see them! The least they could have done was to edge a bit bloody closer!

Whatever. We took as many photos as we could until we realised that they were all going to be utter shit. And we got up and made our way slowly back to the boat.

Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed. We didn’t have enough time to cover all of the island (perhaps there was a better viewpoint a bit further on?) and I would have liked to have stayed longer. However, the weather was glorious and Lundy is undeniably magical. It has a shop and a pub and a scattering of houses. Oh, and a lighthouse with deckchairs at the top.

I mean, really, what more could you ask for? And at this time of year, there are wildflowers everywhere. So, despite not seeing the puffins at close range, we were really, really pleased that we had come. Off we tramped back down the island and down to the jetty, where the mist had evaporated and it felt like we were on an Italian island.

italian

A seal popped his head above the water as the boat was leaving. Sod off, day-trippers, he was saying. Leave me and my puffin mates and those weird birds alone.

And so we did. But we’ll be back. With an absolutely enormous lens.

Here’s a little ditty to leave you with:

We had a really good fundy
When we went to Lundy
But don’t try to get there on a Sundy
Because the ferry doesn’t run.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Depression – a bystander’s view

depressionIt’s Mental Health Week. And depression is on my mind.

Not because I suffer – mercifully, although the black dog skitters about our family, he has left me alone. No, not me. My partner. The black dog is wrapped round Ed like a woollen scarf.

Ed gets patches when he is very low. It’s like he is being ravaged from the inside; his thoughts are skewed because he can’t see, hear or think straight. He gets angry, and breaks things. He hurts himself. (Not me, never me.) And he withdraws.

We have been together for four years, off and on. I say ‘off and on’, because he has finished the relationship twice, and then re-instigated it. The first time, my step mother had just died, but he couldn’t have cared less. The second time, I felt it coming so had prepared myself; feigned indifference, and immediately went dating. Both times, Ed was in a depressive dip – walking through soup – and when he came out, he found himself suddenly alone, and astonished at what he had done.

A lot is being written about mental health at the moment, which is good. But there’s not a huge amount of information on how the partners cope. The blind terror I feel when Ed goes off line never ceases; I know he has thought about suicide, and I know it could happen one day. The sad death of the wonderful Sally Brampton last week showed that the threat of suicide is only a whisper away. But practically, what can I do?

We don’t live together. I offer to come and see him, of course. But he doesn’t want to see anyone. I send him supportive texts, emails. Photos, to try to crowbar him out of his black hole. I tread a fine line between trying to maintain contact, and irritating the shit out of him. I try phoning, but most of the time he doesn’t pick up. And I worry. All the time, I worry.

He is on medication and has had some therapy, which helped. He needs more. He doesn’t realise how bad his episodes are, because as he rises out of them, his brain draws a veil over what’s happened. And so he motors on, in blissful ignorance, until the next cycle hits.

We are there at the moment. Yesterday I sent him a text that triggered him to throw his phone against a wall. (I texted that I thought he might enjoy watching Piers Morgan’s Killer Women. It was supposed to be a joke. Are you listening Piers? Look what you’ve done.) Now the phone is broken which actually plays in the black dog’s favour – no communication – although Ed did use his company phone tonight to tell me how boring my recent photo shoot was. When he is in the grip of it, he can be sodding hurtful.

I love him. When he is not depressed, he is a wonderful man to be with. And so I take the rough with the smooth. I allow myself to be softly trampled, because what he is going through is at times worse than Hell itself. He tells me that he feels happiness with me, but is never truly happy, or content.

Imagine never feeling content in life. Never having those moments when you close your eyes and think, ‘Yes. This is just wonderful.’ Imagine always feeling malcontent, dissatisfied at your own achievements, uncreative, sleepless, anxious, unable to order your thoughts. That’s how he feels. He is exhausted.

I wish I could give him some of my contentment. I wish I could help him, somehow. But equally, I need to find a way of protecting myself because every time this happens, it’s like he’s booting me repeatedly in the stomach. And then forgets all about it.

Caring for someone with depression is hard and lonely. The irony is that it can lead to developing your own mental health problems. But in writing this post I came across some really useful information from Mind, the mental health charity. Just reading it helped  – if you’re in the same position, I’d recommend taking a look.

To all the partners, parents, sons daughters and supporters out there of people with mental health problems – I salute you. Keep healthy, keep happy. Keep going.

You’re doing a brilliant job.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com
 

 

 

Dear boys…

Dear boys,

You are 13 and 15. You fill the house with Lynx, consume the Xbox, eat your body weight in carbs and strawberry pencils every day. You grunt at me one day, speak eloquently the next. You are taller, stronger, fitter than me. You have hair in places I don’t want to think about.

In short, you are becoming men.

As men, it’s important that you understand women. Women are a bit different to you. I’d hoped that you’d have a sister to learn from, but after I’d had you two, frankly I would have rather boiled my head than have another baby.

So you’re stuck with me, I’m afraid. Now, I know that I’m your mum, but surprisingly, I’m also a woman. I’ve got woman’s bits, I was once a girl your age. And I remember that age vividly, because the hormonal years remain seared into your mind as you grow older, like a huge, colourful, vibrant, monstrous painting.

You will encounter a lot of women over the years. From girls at school to work colleagues to, perhaps, a long-term partner. So it’s important that you know how they tick. Here’s my advice to you.

1. Girls are just as scared as you.

That age between 12-16. Arguably, a completely wanky age. Most people are pretending to be something they’re not. If you’re not pretending, you’re weird. You’re worried about friendships, the opposite sex, your changing body. Your moods are on the floor, then on the ceiling. And on top of that, you’ve got sodding exams at the end of it all.  Well – here’s a nugget of hope. EVERYONE is feeling it – including girls. Everyone feels like they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing; some are just better at hiding it. You might think that girls are confident, sexual creatures who seem to have it all going on. But underneath, they are scared about all sorts of things; clothes, make up, friends, and yes – boys. There is a huge pressure on girls to appear attractive to boys (which is rubbish, of course – I know now that all boys look for in girls is a pair of boobs and a willingness to fumble). Girls portray themselves on snapchat and instagram as sexual creatures when, actually, they haven’t got a bleedin’ clue what they are doing. Like you, they are finding their way in the dark.

And like you, they won’t find where they’re going until they reach their 40s. Whereupon they’ll realise they missed a trick by pretending to be someone else for years.

So my top tip is: be yourself as much as you can. Be aware that girls are afraid. Be nice to girls who are having a hard time. They will love you for it.

2. Don’t dismiss them because they have different skills.

You are both clever boys. School suits you, because you are academic; you love Maths, and are both good at it. Science is a breeze. In fact, you are good at everything, you lucky bastards, but I can see that you think Maths and Science is the way forward in life.

This is fine, if it works for you. But don’t be too smug about it; be aware that there are other skills in this world that are equally cherished. And women are extremely good at some of them. I worry that you don’t see creativity as a talent, as something to be respected. Being creative, writing from your imagination, painting from feelings, music, the Arts…if your female friend or colleague or partner thinks outside the box, then shower her with respect. The Government and society in general rewards scientific, numerate people – in other words, they earn more – but taking a creative path in life is brave. I mean, properly brave.

Learn from creative women. (And men.)

The other thing that women do really well – and yes, I’m broad brushing it now – is the social stuff. The multi-tasking. The organising. Women’s brains work differently (can’t remember why but it’s bound to have something to do with having babies). You are great at thinking of an idea, being focused on it, and following it through. Women have multiple ideas going on in their heads and are trying to keep tabs on them all. Occasionally this can be overwhelming to them, and to you.  Women will take stuff on because they feel it’s their role, but really, it’s not anymore. So here’s some advice for when you’re older, and in a relationship:

– Take on your share of the responsibilities at home.
– Communicate. Don’t hide and hope it will all go away.
– Try and put yourself in her shoes.
– Don’t let her organise everything. It might be scary for you, but be brave and take the reins once in a while.

Which leads me on too…

3. Be gentle but be a man.

This bit is so hard. I’ve just told you to share the responsibilities at home (and by that, boys, I meant do the washing up and all that shit regularly), and now I’m telling you to be strong and assertive and…manly. I’m on dodgy ground here, but I believe that women still want men to be men. You’ll ask me what the eff that means. Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean don’t cry. It doesn’t mean don’t ask for help. It doesn’t mean bottle things up. It just means be there, be a shoulder to cry on, be assertive when the situation calls for it, be a place of comfort and advice when all else is up the swanny.

Oh, and it means please put the bins out on a Thursday night.

4. Periods are shit.

You probably think that periods are just excuses for women to moan a lot. But listen, sunshine – they can really hurt. Think about what is happening for a minute; at the start of the period, a woman’s womb is shedding its lining. The action of the lining pulling away from the womb can be EXCRUCIATING. I know! Who thought that up? It’s bollocks!

And PMT is really a thing. Mood swings, aggression, irritability…it’s all part of being a woman. It’s a temporary madness, a blip. You may be on the receiving end of some PMT-stoked nonsense from us. Be kind – we don’t really know what we’re saying. Imagine that we’re some enormous escaped chimpanzee. Feed us chocolate, or crisps, of whatever we want. It will soon pass.

5. So is labour.

Some women say that being in labour is one of the best feelings of their lives. They are lying. It hurts more than being trampled by a cow. The only good thing is that you know it won’t last forever (although it feels like it will). If your partner is in labour, don’t

– complain
– fall asleep
– say ‘God it’s hot in here’
– get so lost in your book that you have to be tapped on the shoulder when it’s time to push.

(I speak from experience.)

Do offer massage, snacks, sick bowls, calming words and tell your partner how beautiful she is – even if she looks like she’s suffering from the plague.

You’re about to share a most miraculous moment.

6. Be funny.

Women love a man who makes them laugh, and here’s the proof: Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers was Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, and he was the guy singing Bangers and Mash – the song we used to listen to in the car that I played on loop. Here he is:

Nice looking guy, right? Looks a bit like Grandpa used to. Bookish. English. Well, he married (amongst others) this lady:

I know, right? I’m not sure he treated her well but my point is this – women love funny men. And it’s obvious why; they make us laugh, feel better, feel happy.

You are both funny boys; humour is like magic – use it to make men like you, and women fall in love with you. If you can make a woman laugh so much that she does a small wee, the Magna Carta says she has to marry you and give you all of her money. Or something.

7. Don’t assume that staying at home to look after the children is the woman’s responsibility.

You may have children at some point down the road. Having children is, I think, a wonderful thing. I have never, for an instant, regretted having either of you. You make my life complete. Still though, it was tough looking after you when you were little.

When you have a job and you go out to work, you feel like you’re learning and accomplishing and achieving. When you stay at home to look after children, you give yourselves to them and you achieve – or you feel like you achieve – little. Obviously bringing up children is the most important job in the world, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it; it can be isolating and tiring and frustrating. I felt like a terrible mother, because it didn’t come naturally to me. I felt lonely, and got a bit depressed. This was absolutely nothing to do with you, you gorgeous boys – it’s just that I wasn’t very good at handling it. I’m not sure why.

So don’t just assume that your partner will give up her job to look after your children; talk to her about it. Share the childcare if you can. Don’t make it all dependent on who earns the most. Money really isn’t everything. It is something, but not everything.

8. Tell your partner she is beautiful. Tell her you love her.

Now this is me talking from my own experience. It may not apply to all women, and you might think that what I’m about to say is sexist. You might think I’m describing a weakness, and perhaps I am. In a nutshell, I don’t have a great view of myself, and I suspect it’s pretty common amongst women. We are surrounded by photos of perfect, photoshopped women; we see them in adverts, on social media, magazines, newspapers TV… and we are brainwashed into believing that this is how we are meant to be. And if we are not like that, then perhaps we are ugly. I think younger women feel it much more painfully than us oldies.

It’s not quite as simple as that, but my point is this; some of us like to be regularly reassured that we are, in fact, lovely. And lovable.

For God’s sake don’t start telling all your female friends that you like the way they look, though. You’ll come across as some creepy stalker. Keep those comments in reserve for your girlfriend. She’ll love you for it.

9. Gender equality

A hundred years ago, women were seen as underlings to men, the weaker sex. We had very little independence, weren’t allowed to vote, get a job, go into higher education. Can you imagine? It seems like utter nonsense now. But gender inequality stills exists; women are often paid less for doing the same job, for example. And women are generally the ones who give up their careers to look after the children. There are all sorts of other things too; I’ve had comments from men about my cycling (a stranger once told me what I should be wearing once!) which a man would simply not be subjected to. Some men still feel that they are in charge of women.

If you see a man belittle a woman, I would like you to support her. Men might be physically stronger (though not always), but women have skills that men do not. There is something called ‘The Glass Ceiling’ which is a term used in the working world; it’s when women progress so far in their careers, but can’t break through to the top ranks, because something, some bias – unseen – stops them. To try to combat this, some companies ‘positively discriminate’ which means that they recruit women even if they’re no the best person for the role. I don’t think this is the way forward.

What does all this mean for you? I’ve no doubt that you will both be successful in whatever you choose to do. But just be aware that, as a man, you will get more opportunities than a woman. The path will be easier. So if you see a female colleague who you think is talented and should be progressing more quickly, support her. Champion her, if you can. We need more women in senior positions in all walks of life.

10. Communication

Women talk more than men. We like communicating. It’s LITERALLY hard-wired into our brains. There will be times when a woman is talking to you and it will sound like this:

BLABLABLABLABLABLABLA. BLABLA. BLABLABLABLACHICKENPIEBLABLABLA.

You will think: why is she talking so much? How can she possibly have so much to say? I ran out of words at 9.38 this morning.

You probably think that I talk too much but listen – I am an introvert. For a woman, I hardly talk at all. Some women will say something, will say it again, and then will say it again in a slightly different way. By which time you’ve switched off and are looking at the small spider on the ceiling.

I think the difference between men and women here is that women use talking as a way to connect with people – not just as a method of transmitting information. And if you’re not familiar with what’s going on, it will just come at you like a wall of (irritating at times) sound.

It’s really important that you don’t just switch off. Don’t, whatever you do, think that everything that woman is saying is irrelevant, and therefore you don’t have to listen – particularly if it’s your partner. Cutting off communication is the death knell to a marriage. Besides, it’s incredibly arrogant to assume that what someone else is saying is a load of tripe; they are just trying to connect with you. And what might appear to be a tsunami of unintelligableness to you, might be their way of trying to tell you something incredibly important. My advice is:

1. Listen. Really listen. It will hurt your brain, but it might save your relationship.
2. Be patient. Try to sift through the padding and think about what the person is really trying to say. (It is hard.)
3. Don’t be dismissive. Please. It’s really important.
4. Reflect back to her what you’ve understood. Something like, “Ok, what I’ve understood from the last 38 minutes is that you’d like me to make you a slightly weaker cup of tea in the mornings. Is that right?”
5. Tell her she is beautiful. It makes an awful lot of things right.

So that’s it, boys. Ten top tips for understanding women. And if you remember only one of them, oh goldfish memory boys, just remember the last. Good communication really is the key that unlocks opportunities, it’s the medicine that helps mental illness, it’s the understanding that keep two people together.

And I’m shutting up now because I know you stopped listening when I started talking about periods.