Everlasting love?

Having just returned from a child- and dog-free break with my husband, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I’ve begun to wonder if after eleven years and two kids, it is necessary to abandon all dependants and splash a thousand euros simply to remind ourselves to take notice of each other.

We’d had date nights regularly and the odd weekend by ourselves at home, but it wasn’t until we were on a plane speeding down the runway at 200 miles an hour that we felt free to be us again.

The sun was fierce, the streets were shady. There was no dog lead to grip, no noses to wipe, no timetable to adhere to. We wandered the cobbled paths of San Sebastián, with no more pressing obligation than to pick a place for lunch.

At first it felt strange – we checked our phones, we talked about the house alarm, the Thames Water refund. Then we stopped for coffee, then tapas. We browsed the shops, and began to look around, and at each other.

We climbed the Urgull. We walked along the beach. We breathed in the hot salty air.  He made me laugh. I made him laugh more (because I’m funnier). We held hands.

We talked about life, our dreams (oh yeah I’d forgotten about those) and when each of us spoke, we actually listened to each other.

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We swam in the sea, dived through the waves and body surfed like teenagers. We ate croquettes, we drank Tempranillo, we had sun downers and night caps. We found a dive bar and danced like loons. The bed was lumpy and the air con rattled but we slept like babies, in each other’s arms.

We remembered who we used to be. I remembered that he wasn’t simply an annoying presence in front of the fridge/sink/or wherever else I needed to be. Or the perma-exhausted workaholic who neglected to fix stuff around the house and put the bins out. We didn’t bicker once. No competition over who’d had the least sleep, who was working the hardest, whose job it was to discipline the kids or deal with the dog’s impacted anal glands.

On the last day, we both felt strange, as though we’d travelled back in time to check in with our old selves, but we knew that wasn’t our life anymore. Of course we’d missed the kids, we’d missed the dog, we wouldn’t want to change any of that, but there was a heavy silence, almost a mourning as we wheeled our cases towards the carpark.

At the airport, his iPhone came out [he had work to catch up on], my eye-rolling resumed [we’re still on holiday you know]. I bought a magazine. He typed emails and checked voicemails. I felt a sulk brewing.

On the plane, I thought about all the research I’d conducted into how to make love last. Few people have the luxury of nannies on tap/family support or a five-star budget. And most couples are so weighed down by the admin of life, it’s hard to differentiate our relationships from our shared responsibilities. Maybe we’ve overcomplicated matters. Maybe we need to stop working so hard to build a future, and instead like the millennials, live for the moment.

I glanced out the window to see the sands of Concha Bay slipping away into the distance, the surfers bobbing up and down in the waves, fading to nothing, and realised that what’s special about romantic love is the very fact that it’s fleeting.

Like catching the perfect wave, we have no control over the ocean, but it helps to be in the water, be present and ready to ride that mother f*cker when it comes.

Or at least just as soon as I’ve called Thames Water…

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Latest release, LOVE IS…Join Ellie Rigby to find out what it takes to make love last.

Ebook available now.

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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’

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’