Twinkle, twinkle little ONE star…

I read my first one-star review at 11.13pm this Tuesday evening.

Like every other ego crushing moment in my life, I can recall exactly where I was and precisely what I was doing. I was propped up in bed, dog on lap, iPhone in hand, stalking my book on Amazon. 

‘Ooh, another three reviews today. Excellent,’ I mumbled, excitedly scrolling down and pondering whether Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway would be best cast as Ellie when the movie version was commissioned. 

Of course, it would be important that I retain the rights to approve the screenwriting, my mind continued to wander. When suddenly, like a pin advancing on a balloon (a nasty, rusty, tetanus-riddled pin), the words ‘Bored’ and ‘Silly’ came into view, alongside a solitary (and sheepish looking) One Star, whose expression I imagined to read: ‘Don’t blame me, I just work here.’ 

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My eyes narrowed and my heart raced as I read on:

‘To many characters, to many drinks, to much sex talk. Hated it. No real story line..Don’t waste time on this one. Silly and boring’

‘Silly AND Boring?’ I argued, to no-one in particular. My dog raised an eyebrow. ‘How can too much sex and too many drinks be boring?’

NB my use of the word ‘too’ not ‘to’ as per fuckwit reviewer.

I was being defensive, I know. But there’s something quite aggressive about a one-star review. It’s a hate review. In my quest to provide lighthearted entertainment I had somehow inadvertently enraged a reader to such an extent, they deemed it necessary to take time out of their busy life, otherwise undoubtedly filled with the consumption of poetic literary prose, to logon to Amazon and type a warning to other potential readers. How had I done that?

I hadn’t written a pro-Nazi manifesto. It’s a chick-lit novel. 

Once I’d taken a deep breath and reminded myself that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, I began to take a more objective perspective and considered where my defensiveness was coming from. If I was fully confident that my writing was good enough, I wouldn’t look to reviews for validation, would I? And the word ‘silly’ grated on me so much because deep-down, I knew that I would rather have written something, I don’t know, a little more…intelligent. 

None of us like criticism, but unless we hide away and avoid ever having an opinion then it’s inevitable. In fact, without criticism, how could we ever hope to improve?

Besides, I just checked. I’m in good company; Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ has nine one-star reviews on Amazon…

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If you have time to waste, read more reviews (and add your own) for my ‘silly’ and ‘boring’ novel below:

US reviews

UK reviews  

R.I.P. Mark Darcy

I’m glad Mark Darcy is dead.

Given that yesterday was the long-awaited launch of Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” I felt compelled to exorcise some Darcy demons from my matchmaking days.

In order for you to fully understand how an otherwise caring and nonviolent woman might revel in the death of a well-loved and seemingly upstanding fictional character, I wanted to share with you a typical consultation with one of the thousands of Bridget Jones-a-likes I met during my six years as a matchmaker:

RIP

She unravelled her scarf and plonked down on the seat in front of me like a heavy bag of shopping. Then ruffled her dirty-blonde hair and stared at me expectantly.

I took a deep breath, leaned forward, pen poised and asked her what she was looking for.

‘I like tall men,’ she began. ‘Brown hair. Brown eyes.’

I nodded, gesturing to the waiter to bring us some Chardonnay.

‘He has to be intelligent,’ she continued. ‘And successful. I need a man with a good career. Something meaningful too.’ She looked to the ceiling then back down at me with a dreamy expression. ‘Like a Human Rights Barrister.’

I suppressed an eye-roll.

She went on. ‘He must be good-looking. Slim. But not skinny. I prefer an athletic build. I like eloquent men who can hold a conversation at a dinner party.’

I looked up at the ceiling and stared at a crack in the paint.

She continued, nonplussed. ‘He must be caring and sensitive but also assertive and masculine. Confident but not arrogant and calm and capable in a crisis.’ She paused for breath, the dreamy expression returning. ‘I like broad shoulders and muscular thighs. Are you writing this down?’

I looked back down at her, wondering if now were an appropriate time to suggest she date Steve, the 5ft7, twice divorced IT consultant from Southampton.

Two hours later after she’d concluded her future beloved’s list of attributes with an appreciation of fine wine and manly hands, I downed my wine and cursed Helen Fielding for ever introducing Mark Darcy to the female population.

It’s not that the average woman in her thirties doesn’t deserve love or happiness. We all do. What bothered me the most though, is since Bridget Jones’ Diary graced our bookshelves and our screens, the qualities of the perfect man have somehow morphed from the desired to the expected. If a ditzy, chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic can have Mark Darcy chasing her around London, professing to love her just the way she is, then that gives hope to the rest of us.

When in truth, the real-life Colin Firth chose to love his stunning size 6 Italian film-producer wife, Livia Giuggioli, just the way she is. Which let’s face it, can’t be that much of a struggle.

We all love Bridget, but if I’ve learned one thing from personally matching thousands of women like her, is that the only thing worse than no hope, is false hope.

Now what did I do with Steve’s profile?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley HIll’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

The hunters or the hunted?

‘No, the girls chase the boys,’ said my twelve-year old niece as she explained the new rules of kiss-chase to me the other day.

I screwed up my nose and considered what to say. Just as I held back the words “stop” and “that” I felt a shudder go through me.

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During my time as a matchmaker I had become all too aware of the power shift between men and women when dating. Although in my experience, it happened much later, rather than the disturbing prepubescent scenario my niece had just presented to me.

When women are young, pert and perky, sexual attention is as omnipresent as alcopops.  All we have to do is don a micro-mini, slick on a glossy smile and prepare to ride a tsunami of proposals. We’re given a false sense of confidence, living life as though we have been cast as the leading lady in an Impulse ad.

Then, just as our self-esteem is flying as high as an Everest flag, suddenly, somewhere between our twenty-eighth and thirtieth birthday, it’s as though the clock strikes midnight and the spell wears off.

Fate slams on the brakes, spins the steering wheel and performs an unauthorised U-turn. Quicker than we can file for whiplash, the men we’ve been batting off with our (gifted) Loubutins, dismissing as unworthy, are now strutting around like Silvio Berlusconi, willowy nymphets draped over their arms.

While we’ve been umming and ahing over whether to settle for our 6ft3 personal trainer, or hold out for a human rights lawyer, skinny Steve from IT is now show-casing a hottie from HR.

As we lose traction quicker than a fading reality TV star, we start to panic. Our skirts get shorter, our necklines lower. We need to cash in our assets, before it’s too late.

Our Google history littered with fertility forums, we resolve to abandon any aspirations for a Mark Darcy clone and cosy up to the personal trainer.

Over a home-cooked meal, we suggest formalising his drunken declarations of love and propose a trip to the jewellers. He develops a twitch. A while later, probably some time between us forwarding a scanned ultrasound of a friend’s foetus, and the bonus bumper issue of Bridal magazine, he becomes impotent. By our third session with a Relate counsellor, he scrabbles for his Nikes and sprints into the arms of a girl five years younger.

We conclude that men are bastards.

How could they be so ruthless? Casting us aside with a facial expression generally reserved for out-of-date prawns. We should be treated as people not list of boxes to be ticked.

But did we offer them the same courtesy? Prior to their coiffed hair, Prada wardrobe, and bulging bank-balances weren’t they once the scrawny cretins we sneered at in school, while their older counterparts whisked us away in convertible Cortinas? Like the Stanford prison experiment, when the power shifts, it seems so too does the behaviour.

Eventually, after a prolonged pause, I looked my Niece in the eye.

‘Never chase a boy.’ I said. ‘They can run faster.’

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Deluded

‘It’s your fault. You distracted me!’ I raged, throwing my club to the ground.

It was my honeymoon. My newlywed husband stood across from me gripping the handle of his club, his expression falling somewhere between fear and bemusement.

We were in the Drakensberg mountains, South Africa. We’d had an amazing day trekking though the forest and lazing by waterfalls. Now we were enjoying a light-hearted game of Crazy Golf before a romantic dinner under the stars. Yet I was about to tarnish our memories with an almighty outburst.

The fact was he’d won. The man, who only days before had professed to love me more than life itself, had defeated me. Not in a gentlemanly mild-mannered fashion either. I’d been thrashed. At a game I was certain I owned.

I’d grown up with the sport. It was in my blood. Every school holiday, rain or shine, from a caravan park, I would hone my skill. My parent’s photo albums were rammed with snaps of me, victorious on the course. Well I’d assumed I’d been victorious. Perhaps that was the error in my thinking.

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In my mind, I was a champion. I knew the exact angle to putt through the windmill to make the curve ahead. With a simple glance, I could assess the precise velocity required to scale any ramp. I could even fill out a score sheet while eating a double coned Mr Whippy. So how dare he, of alien nationality, someone who misguidedly termed it ‘mini-golf’, a man who had never so much as stepped onto an AstroTurfed green, suddenly become the expert?

‘It’s all about geometry,’ he’d said, retrieving his ball from the hole.

I’d eyed my club and then his head, envisaging a Drakensberg Post headline, involving the words groom and pummelled.

It was only after a couple of post-tantrum cocktails that I began to question whether it was my self-awareness rather than my husband’s chivalry, which was lacking. I’d spent years as a matchmaker trying to help people see themselves as they were, rather than as they would like to be, yet it seemed I hadn’t quite mastered the practice myself.

There had been plenty of clients who’d sat in front of me, lacking the evidence to verify their claims.

‘I have a great sense of humour.’

‘I’m really sporty.’

‘I’m very cultured. Love the theatre.’ Ahem, I’m not sure Chitty Chitty Bang Bang counts. 

By the third cocktail, when I finally conceded that I might not be as proficient at my childhood sport as I had first thought, I began to wonder what other mistruths I had been clinging to.

Aged eleven, I’d been awarded distinction for Grade three flute, and since then had readily identified with anyone musically gifted. I once drew a picture of my uncle’s dog. My mum had it framed. I think it was at that point that I decided I was creative. A one-time A-grade student of chemistry, at pub quizzes or during a game Trivial Pursuit, when the science category was selected, I’d find myself perched on the edge of my seat, expecting the answers to fly from my mouth like a Doogie Howser script.

The next day, on the cusp of an unforeseen identity crisis, I decided to write a list of qualities. Qualities that I was confident I possessed. Then, upon his suggestion, I read them out to my husband, using his reaction as a gauge of the statement’s accuracy.

‘I’m highly organised.’

Snigger.

‘I’m adventurous.’

Smirk.

‘I’m funny.’

Eyebrow raise.

‘I’m caring’

Twitch of the nose and nod of the head.

(Encouraged by seemingly positive response to the above:) ‘I’m altruistic’

Doubled-over belly laugh, followed by apparent breathing cessation. 

After abandoning my experiment in order to assess the need for any urgent medical intervention, I began to wonder if, in some way, we were all deluded. Legends in our own minds. Waiting for our perceived talents to be discovered, or at least acknowledged.

No one wants to think of themselves as mediocre and, naturally, some of us will be lucky enough to fall at the preferred end of the bell curve. Yet, a fact often overlooked by our inner (and undiscovered) genius is that the majority of us are destined to be nothing more than average.

Did I mention my aptitude for statistics?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Better than me…

Congratulations is a word often said through gritted teeth. Even more so when the recipient has achieved something we haven’t. Congratulations on your six-figure-sum promotion. Congratulations on your perfect Pilates bottom. Congratulations on your whirlwind engagement to a dashing multi-millionaire. Is that a princess cut diamond? Three carats? Oh and a honeymoon pregnancy? Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for you.

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While we’re gushing and fawning, and grinning away as though our life depended on it, we’re also asking ourselves the question, why? Why despite my university education has my salary flat-lined at the average income mark? Why is my bottom, or rather its owner, so resistant to Pilates? Why, instead of a fairytale romance, did I have to endure years of heartache before finally negotiating my way into an engagement? Why isn’t my life as perfect as I’d hoped it would be?

Then at the end of such self-indulgent neurosis, I realise I’m sounding like a spoilt brat. I should be grateful for what I have. I should do affirmations. Count blessings. Be thankful. There’s always someone worse off than I am. Many, in fact.

However, we live in a society driven by aspiration. We’ve been conditioned to strive, to compete, to compare. We want better, the best. And we’re told we deserve it.

So when one of our peers triumphs, in a seemingly easy and effortless fashion, it’s understandable we’re a bit peeved.

When I was young, proud and unwilling to accept defeat, I worked from the theory that there was some kind of divine calibrator of success. That, for example, a girl far prettier than me may somehow lack the attributes with which I had been blessed.

‘Yeah, who cares if she’s a size 6, I’m a mathematical genius.’

If I read an intelligent well-articulated book by a female professor, I’d rationalise that she was a tweed-clad spinster who made jam. Then, when I flipped the sleeve to see a gorgeous young woman whose bio referenced a country house, four sandy haired children and an adoring husband, I’d be stumped. Where was my get-out clause then?

Even now, I still harbour an extensive list of excuses to explain why I haven’t fulfilled my potential. I have twins. That’s my career excuse nailed. My dodgy knee prohibits any rigorous fitness regime. Bonding time with my husband justifies evenings lost to Prison Break and wine.

However, when I open a magazine to see some perky woman with bouncy hair declaring she has written a best-selling trilogy while breast-feeding triplets, I have no alternative but to accept my failings.

As I’ve grown older and a little more tolerant of my limitations, I’ve realised the question isn’t simply, why are some people better than I am? The real question is why do I care? According to the theory of abundance, success isn’t a finite resource. Another person can’t steal our odds. In fact, it was the accomplishments of others that afforded us the possibilities we have today.

So now, when faced with a superior being, one who appears desperate to share their joy with me, joy at accomplishing something I have failed to do. I summon my internal mantra and allow a beaming smile to sweep across my face. For, I am secure enough in the knowledge that their strengths in no way contribute to my weaknesses.

And besides, just because they’re super-successful doesn’t mean they’re happy, right?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Tempted by the fruit of another

If a man loves us, then we should be able throw him into a pit pulsing with naked supermodels and he would remain true.

And by true, I mean no impure thought would enter his head.

To any woman of sane mind, this is obviously a ridiculous notion yet for most of us, it would be the ideal scenario.

When I was a matchmaker, one of the biggest causes of heartache for my clients was infidelity or at least a perceived threat of it. I don’t like to think of my husband lusting after another woman, but the very fact that he lusts after me, or at least did at one time, makes it inevitable.

So where do we draw the line? Some couples think sex outside the relationship is okay but for most of us, that is a definite taboo. And virtual sex? Well, some psychologists believe that the human brain cannot determine the difference between real and imagined encounters, so technically using porn is adultery.

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And how about strip clubs, usually pitched as a crucial work commitment or stag party obligation? Is a naked woman writhing around on his groin acceptable? Is he allowed a hard-on? Is it okay for him to nip to the loo for a gentleman’s moment?

It’s just a natural urge after all.

In fact, as a modern-day woman, I am acutely aware the correct response to my husband requesting such an outing is: ‘Whoo hoo, have a great time. Or: ‘Sounds fun. Can I come too? We could have a couple’s dance.’ During which I am supposed to be turned-on by the idea of an eighteen-year-old Latvian with DDs, arousing my husband.

The traditional fairytales didn’t conclude with a Prince declaring undying love for Snow White then having the odd wank over Cinderella, the wicked step-mother, or if so inclined, the dwarf with the tightest trousers.

We aren’t the keepers of our man’s thoughts, or even the moderators of his actions but if sex and love are (greased) poles apart, then why not just opt for an open relationship?

If the line between harmless fun and cheating is as flimsy as a lap dancer’s thong, then maybe we should just rip it off and be done with it.

Or have I misunderstood the term Happy Ending?

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Sliding Doors

My other life is perfect. The one I lead in my head.

I know it’s there because I’m always accounting for it. The rows of dresses I own, ideal for weddings I don’t go to, sprayed-on jeans and leopard print stilettos for bars and clubs I no longer frequent.  A bejewelled evening gown- because you never know- and a gold sequined bikini, in case I find myself ten years younger and sunbathing on a yacht in Puerto Banus.

On a recent shopping trip, I worked myself into frenzy scooping up inappropriate clothing and then barging into changing rooms. At one point, whilst brandishing an armful of white linen trousers, I hyper-focused on an imagined scene at a Chateau in the south of France. Standing on tiptoes in front of the mirror, I pondered whether wedges or kitten heels would be more fitting for a holiday I had no plans to book. Of course, in my parallel life I was sipping Rose on an 18th century terrace overlooking ancient vines. Sunglasses propped up on my head. Skin slightly flushed from the rays, lips glossed. My hair swept up into a chignon. However, in truth, I’m not entirely sure what a chignon is.

It’s not as though a holiday in France is an impossible endeavour. It’s just that my mind has somehow edited out twin toddlers and a disobedient dog. Throw them into the mix and instead of me personifying effortless chic, I’m wearing a deeply harangued expression, brow furrowed, temples pulsing. Instead of organic white cotton, my trousers are industry spec Kaki green. What they lack in elegance they make up for in their ability to camouflage the inevitable ominous brown smudges. My top might be less military standard, but there’s every chance I’ll have a label sticking out or my bra strap showing while attempting to block determined toddlers from nose-diving into the pool. And my hair won’t be swept into anything, more like plastered down with the cohesive aid of Weetabix.

It was only upon recent reflection that I realised it wasn’t simply that my life was less glamorous since I had acquired dependents. Instead, it dawned on me that my virtual reality had never come to fruition, since it had reared its perfectly groomed head twenty years ago when I was preparing for my first ever date. Following the counsel of Just Seventeen, style bible for any aspiring teenager at the time, I had thoroughly prepared for the occasion, and envisaged strolling hand-in-hand up Bromley high street, the birds tweeting, the sun shining. I would wear my Miss Selfridge paisley dress and platform boots. We never got that far though, because in reality, he didn’t turn up. I later discovered it was because he’d substituted me for a girl called Felicity who was in the year above. She had bigger boobs.

Since then, measured against the fantasy that plays through my mind, real life has rarely measured up.

The one thing that remains constant though, in both scenarios as they play out simultaneously, is my hand tightly gripping the stem of a wine glass.

Therefore, I invite a toast: ‘To idealism and reality. Never the twain shall meet.’

And if they do, at least I’ve got the wardrobe covered.

 

Read more from Haley Hill in her bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

What type are you?

‘Because tall men cheat,’ said a client, concluding why she would no longer be dating men of height. This certainly wasn’t the first sweeping statement I’d heard, but I was surprised to hear it from a statistic loving investment banker. According to her, anyone including and above 6ft was a perennial adulterer. Her certainty on this point had not gleaned from an extensive randomised study, excluding all other variables and a calculation within two standard deviation points, but from a personal experience of three out of her total sum of ten partners.

The first, 6ft2, had done the deed with her best friend in the toilets of their student union. The second, 6ft3 had been operating from the understanding that they were in an open relationship and the third, a mere 6ft and the worst offender of all, had slept with his P.A., his cousin and an undisclosed number of prostitutes. The remaining seven, to her knowledge had all been perfectly faithful and below 5ft11.

Upon tentatively suggesting that perhaps her sample pool hadn’t been sufficient to form a conclusion to cast in iron, and that perhaps there might be other variables to consider, she became outraged. Then retorted with an exhaustive list of men, since the history of time, who had allegedly cheated, quickly followed by their height and delivered with a glaring look of disdain which informed me I was an idiot to question her. Was Henry VIII really 6ft3?

When a relationship ends, most of us prefer to blame the other party rather than looking inwardly for the reasons it failed, and for this, generalisations can be a useful tool. ‘Men are bastards’ or ‘Women are mental’ are  popular choices but the problem with such broad declarations is that afterwards, our options are limited and we may be forced to awkwardly add a quick disclaimer such as ‘this one is different,’ next time we profess undying love. To avoid this, when selecting a generalisation, I would recommend more specific criteria, perhaps with reference to nationality or profession and preferably including a subdivision of the main category, for example, ‘Italian men wear tight trousers’ or, as another client observed, ‘Norwegians have high foreheads’ which, for her, she was quick to add,  was not a desirable trait.

‘If you want a manly man, then go for an antipodeans; Kiwi’s especially.  They’re so masculine- great bodies- all that farming,’ I have heard myself saying on many an occasion, and with great conviction. The fact that I have never visited New Zealand, only met a handful of those who have resided there, and have zero knowledge of the population of farmers or farming techniques, hasn’t deterred me. When describing my fantasy farmers, I visualise Hugh Jackman, sweating neat testosterone whilst droving cattle one handed, on a sinewy stallion. The fact that the scene I’m conjuring, was fiction set in the 1930s and set in Australia with an actor of English parentage and Australian nationality still has not deterred me from believing this is how all Kiwi men live.

It’s obvious that ignorance fuels our beliefs in stereotypes, but if we can’t categorise in dating, then where do we start? Generalisations are there to save us time in the selection process, but perhaps we should resolve to challenge a few from now on, just to make sure we’re not missing the point.

But then, what would I know, I’m blonde.

Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Mirror mirror on my Wall

I saw myself on a video podcast the other day. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Over the years, like most women, I have studied my face to excess: in thousands of mirrors and under every type of light. I am familiar with every freckle, every contour, every pore and every flaw but to see it on screen, in its full, animated glory, triggered immediate recoil, something tantamount to a full-body cringe. The person on screen looked odd. She blinked too much, had a faux earnest expression like some kind of Princess Diana wannabe and when she spoke, she sounded like a horsey sloaney twat. Her face looked unfamiliar. Her jowls looked droopy and her mouth downturned.

As I lurched for the phone, ready to dial for emergency cosmetic intervention, I began to think about how rare it is that we see ourselves as we truly are. Or as others might see us.

In the digital age, we are free to construct our identity, to select, crop and hyper-edit our image. We are the directors and producers of our lives, cherry picking the fun and glamorous times while cutting out the mundane. So much so that some of us eventually convince ourselves, identifying more with our avatar than we do with reality.

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On dating sites, where people are searching for something more meaningful than a press release from their friends, the average member will sieve through thousands of contestants, hoping to cast a perfect partner in their own reality show. But to make it through to auditions, profiles must be a masterpiece of copyediting and photo-shop. A plain Jane accounts clerk suddenly morphs into porno secretary. John at British Rail masquerades as an engineering mogul. We are outraged when out dates are unrecognisable in person but do we stop to think if we are guilty too?

As a matchmaker I was faced with many a delusional client blinded by their online reflection: ‘Why do I have to state my age when I look so much younger?’

So what is the answer? Slap up a barefaced photo and minimal text onto a dating site and you’ll get about as much attention as an albino in Essex. If everyone else is doing it, then we’re not fighting fair.

Perhaps social networking sites could perform routine scans for those at risk of developing narcissistic tendencies and covertly activate the user’s webcam on a Monday morning, before enforcing a slow-motion playback. Double chin. Mochachino moustache. Ouch. Ego in check.

We all know the most desirable, and psychologically sound, solution is to rise above the futility of conceit, abhor the superficial, grow our armpit hair and surrender to a higher purpose. Most likely wearing a kaftan, we should proclaim our bodies a vessel for the soul, flinging them from social platforms to a wood hut in the forest, where we live off the land and plot post-digital anarchy.

Alternatively, there’s always the less drastic option of reminding ourselves that Narcissus wouldn’t have died, had he realised his reflection were only an image.

Read more from Haley Hill in her bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’

Valen-tired-day

Apart from our wedding day, no day is expected to be as perfect as Valentine’s. The man was a saint after all, risking his life to marry Christian couples in the face of the mighty Roman Empire.

For centuries, lovers have exchanged gifts, confectionary and hand-written notes to celebrate their affection. So instead of simply  purchasing a card with a teddy bear on it, some chocolate brazils and scheduling a candlelit meal, why is it I feel obligated to don tacky red lingerie, an uncooperative suspender belt and bend over the dining table, licking my lips and declaring that I am the dessert?

With two kids and a muffin top under my belt, I thought my days as a wanton nymphet were over.  I suppose I can at least be grateful  my husband’s recent conversion to a macrobiotic diet rules out the mutually humiliating ritual of painting each other’s genitals with chocolate spread.

Instead of being force-fed oysters, which I was rather looking forward to, the four-course love feast he is planning, I’m told will involve an unseasoned avocado, steamed vegetables and spelt. I think they might look a little out of place amongst the fake rose petals, heart shaped napkins and red plastic champagne flutes mum added to my trolley at the supermarket, along with a stern warning to ‘keep the passion alive’.

To accompany the occasion, my husband suggested I might like to wear a dress. This in itself seems a reasonable request. However, when dining at home by ourselves I find the idea quite ridiculous. Back when we were first dating, it made sense. I spent my days submerged in narcissistic self- indulgence and would think nothing of enjoying a four-hour prep before appearing on his doorstep like Aphrodite from the sea. Now, however there is a window. Anyone with children will understand this timeframe. It’s the extremely brief interlude between putting the kids to bed and collapsing with exhaustion. If I do any more than simply peal off my biscuit encrusted tracksuit bottoms and pull a creased-not-quite-fitting-anymore dress over my head, there is a good chance he could be asleep, or drunk by the time I present myself, wobbling on a pair of scarlet, feathered mules.

If I make it down in time, and haven’t lacerated myself with a speed-Brazilian shave, and if Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, interspersed with tandem toddler recitals via the monitor isn’t enough to offset the wine soaking through our spelt rammed stomachs, we might actually get down to it. Maybe even on the dining-room table, if we can work around the travel cots and kiddie car seats. The act itself will be hurried, not through passion but through fear of interruption. Demands for dummy retrieval, an urgent business call, or as occurred on one occasion, a canine nose probing an orifice, in search of chocolate spread.

The truth is, like most couples with young children, we’re exhausted. We’re lucky if we have time to remember to love each other, let alone write a note expressing it. However, this Valentine’s, along with the rest of the world, we will endeavour to rekindle the flame of love. Though chances are, it will be on a Peppa Pig candle.

Read more from Haley Hill in her bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’