Thursday, 26 February 2009


Following on from my blog entry yesterday a friend has asked me if I’ve ever been involved in a case where either the bride or groom has been abandoned in the aisle of the Church on the wedding day itself. Well you might think that the answer has to be obviously not. After all, what would be the point in contacting a solicitor specialising in divorce, if the wedding never actually took place? Well it does happen and usually it’s with reference to the wedding presents. Do they belong to the pair destined not to become a couple or do the donors retain ownership? Curiously unless the gifts have been given specifically on the condition that the wedding takes place, they belong to the separated pair! Mind I’d be lying if I said that either the bride or groom had instructed me in such a situation. Invariably it’s been a devoted relative who spent a little more than they would otherwise have intended and, fortunately for them, common decency has always dictated that the gifts are returned. Mind for anyone who, on receiving an invitation, has doubts as to whether the wedding will actually take place, it probably pays not to deliver the gift until the big day itself and even then only after the ceremony!

Sometimes advice can even be sought by the parents of one of the nearly-weds; usually where their son or daughter is the one who has been jilted. Inevitably they are looking to recover not only the expense they have incurred but potentially damages for what has been described to me as public humiliation and hurt feelings. Oh dear English law is very specific in its requirements. How do you prove a contract between the parents of the groom and the bride when even the engagement between the betrothed is no longer regarded as a legally enforceable contract? Public humiliation has of course been regarded as a prime Anglo Saxon sport since the days of the stocks. As for compensation for hurt feelings, pull the other one – most are highly relieved that their precious off-spring has been saved the life of misery they had expected was to be their future and if the parents get the opportunity to take the honeymoon instead, all is forgiven.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Tonight I called into the supermarket on my way home from the office. It was very busy and, as someone who sees scope for divorce everywhere she turns, I pushed my trolley down the aisles expecting to be confronted by domestic disharmony at every shelf. As it was I didn’t encounter a single dispute, be it over the supermarket’s own brand compared to a well known label; buying the one item that’s really wanted as opposed to taking advantage of a 3 for 2 offer; organic or inorganic; freshly squeezed or reconstituted. Even the young man who served me at the check-out couldn’t help but let slip how happily married he is.

Of course, it isn’t always like that. Indeed I recall one occasion, once upon a time, when I came across two elderly gents sharing notes next to the cheese counter. “I’ve lost my new wife,” one of them said. “We parted next to the cornflakes. I’d so have liked you to meet her. She said she was just slipping into town on an errand and would meet me here, but she’s half an hour late.”

“That’s a co-incidence,” said the other, “My wife of forty years seems to have disappeared too. What does yours look like?”

I pricked up my ears. After all these women were possibly clients of mine and anything could have happened to them.

“Well, she’s 24, curves in the right places, blonde hair down to her waist, legs as long as drain pipes and she’s wearing a mini skirt and stiletto heels. What about yours?”

“Oh, never mind about her, let’s track yours down first!” he suggested, with a twinkle in his eye.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Outdoor Man took me away for the weekend to a small hotel above the shores of Lake Windermere. The kitchen there is famed for its fine dishes and my aim was to relax and indulge in some sumptuous living.

Outdoor Man was having none of it. To justify dinner on Saturday evening, I had to accompany him on a long walk. Knowing I have an allergy to uphill slogs, he assured me that it was to be a gentle meandering stroll. Maybe my memory is playing tricks, because donned in hiking boots, several protective layers and trekking poles at the ready, I recall that we headed off – UPWARDS!

Still it was a pleasure to be in the open countryside and even if the summit was chilled by an Arctic wind, I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. So too did the other couples and families that we came across and to whom we said hello and exchanged smiles and pleasantries.

The only exception seemed to be the angry brigade; a succession of solitary men, all dressed in high visibility red. They appeared to regard couples showing pleasure in the surroundings as something of an impediment to the routes they were covering at high speed. Could they all have been recently separated? They were apparently alone in the world and marching off their frustrations using good old fresh air and exercise for therapy. Mind, I’m sure that by the time they descended late in the afternoon their anger would have dissipated and they would have managed to smile at any late stragglers they passed.

As for me, I must have done well, because Outdoor Man didn’t just let me have dinner but dessert as well!

Friday, 20 February 2009


The psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has this week published a paper entitled: “Well Connected?: The Biological Implications of Social Networking.”

Of course, I make no claim to having read the paper, only, I confess, the media reports on it. If they are accurate then from what I understand he concludes that social networking sites do not enhance our social life but rather displace it. One of the most pronounced changes in the habits of British Citizens over the last two decades is apparently the reduction in the number of minutes a day they interact with other human beings and even young children with their laptops, television sets and electronic games are affected.

But what makes this paper all so serious is reference to the identification of yet more human genes. In fact 209 social regulating genes including ones connected with stress and immune systems. The continuous use of social networking sites and technology instead of face to face communication could according to Dr Sigman affect not only our social skills but also those genes which in turn can have an effect on our hormone levels and well-being, increasing in due course the incidence of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and dementia!

So dear reader and in your own best interests I have to warn you that logging on regularly to read this blog can seriously damage your health and when all is said and done another argument with your spouse, or a whinge to your best friend, brother, sister, or AN Other, might just be better for you!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


This evening I have been abandoned. Outdoor and Apprentice Men have taken crampons and gone off to the Highlands of Scotland, Little Girl is staying at her Grandma’s and I have the house to myself. Home alone then dinner for one; whatever shall I do next, I wondered. Nobody to tidy up after this evening; nobody’s clothes to get ready; nobody to discuss the contents of the newspaper with or to ask for help in completing the last two clues in the crossword.

Anyway I found the ideal solution. If you ever find yourself alone, bereft and unable to finish the crossword, phone a friend! Or, as I did, five of them!

A word of advice though, first get yourself one of those contracts that gives you unlimited calls and that way the bill for two hours gossiping by phone will never come back to haunt you and spoil the pleasure. Also never ever spend that long on the phone if your recently separated partner is paying the bill and you don’t have an unlimited contract, because they’ll only pay it once, after which they’ll fight to the bitter end over the rest of your finances as a point of principle. Finally whatever you do, don’t ring the other side of the world and leave the phone off the hook (even unlimited contracts don’t cover that kind of thing); whatever your former partner did to you, it won’t get you even and ultimately a Judge could make you pay from your share of the settlement!

Friday, 13 February 2009


Valentine's Day tomorrow and, in anticipation, two sets of statistics in the media today caught my eye, both clearly designed to spoil the romance of the occasion.

First The Times reproduced figures from the Office for National Statistics to show that if you are married and living in the UK you are in a minority. The cynic in you might think that this is as a result of our high divorce rate, but in fact it apparently has more to do with the shrinking number of people marrying in the first place. The article seeks to explore possible reasons for this, including the high cost of a traditional wedding or childhood experiences from parents divorcing putting off would-be spouses

However the results of a survey in Croatia may inadvertently have revealed the answer. Apparently 40% of people in Croatia tell their partners that they are terminating their relationship using a mobile phone. Even more cowardly, more than half of those do it by SMS rather than speaking. Assuming the statistics are similar in the UK, maybe ditching one’s partner has just got too easy, now that it doesn’t even have to be done face to face.

It seems to me that Cupid is going to need more than a bow and arrow tomorrow. Somehow he has to learn to confiscate mobile phones and find a way to get all those lovers to the altar.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Snow Traffic
Originally uploaded by Joey B.

Leaving work this evening I encountered traffic struggling in the snowy weather. Most drivers, sensitive to the road conditions, were being completely sensible but then I encountered Mr Transit Van Driver. Thinking only of himself he failed to look as he charged onto the roundabout across my path; perhaps I was meant to be bowled over but instead I took emergency avoiding action, skidded and halted only inches from his bonnet. What one might call a lucky escape!

That’s an expression used frequently by divorcing clients; those who’ve reached the stage where they can look at half-empty bottles and describe them as half-full. Looking at life with optimism or even smiling in the face of adversity has much to recommend it. On my part, stopped on that roundabout, I could only grind my teeth and simmer silently, especially when Mr Transit Van Driver then suddenly changed direction and forced his way across the lanes, causing chaos to other road users, as he left the roundabout as rapidly as he had entered it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Is there a link between colour blindness and divorce? Apparently up to 8% of men are colour blind and of those up to two thirds struggle with the difference between red and green. Presumably the inability to help their wives choose matching shoes and handbags could be a factor but by itself hardly a great contributor to the divorce statistics.

What is more likely are the arguments which rage as a result of a man’s ability to see things in black and white when his wife wants all the colours of the rainbow; the tunnel visioned monochrome against the multi-hued bonanza. His insistence on thinking fruit when she mentions peach, plum or apricot; tangerine, lemon or pumpkin. How many men appreciate the subtleties in shading when told its purple, mauve, lavender or violet? Mention salmon and men surely think fish. Copper, brass or platinum; she thinks hair dye and he imagines pipes and screws. Buff, tan and bronze has him thinking of beaches and bikini clad maidens. No wonder there are so many arguments and misunderstandings in the paint pot aisles of DIY hyper stores. Raw umber surfaces as she gets madder and whilst champagne and chocolate can go some way to repair the dissent and domestic turmoil, there are occasions when harmony can only be bought with gold and sometimes it has to be studded with ruby or sapphires.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


On Friday I travelled to London in order to fulfil a business commitment. There was a time when getting to and from London from the North–East in a day was nigh on impossible because of the length of the journey or alternatively the temptation to stay on afterwards and take in some of the Big City atmosphere was irresistible. This time I travelled there and back in less than 2 ½ hours each way, returning in time to spend more or less the whole of my Friday evening at home. There had been no temptation to spend longer in London and with my meeting and journey over, I was just happy to get on with my day to day life.

Sitting on the train I mused over the fact that these days clients too rarely want to linger over their separations, preferring to move onto divorce on immediate grounds than to wait until they have lived apart for two years. Like me in London, they want to be able to put their commitment and journey behind them and then get on with the resumption of some kind of normality as soon as possible.