Julie Rosenfield

My journal

Archive for the tag ““love””


I loved that man to distraction

To inaction, to the traction of my soul

Whatever he wanted, there I was

But however hard I tried

My love was not returned.

* * *

“Put up a barrier,” my friends urged

“A cold wall.”

Tired of broken arrangements

Cancelled dates

Trips to the Shard not shared

I concurred.

* * *

I would erect a barrier, they were right

But not a stone wall, a barbed wire fence,

An invisible, electric repelling beam

But a big, shiny mirror

A large, reflecting pool

That would be my border control.

* * *

So that when I send out beams of needful love

Instead of desiring arrows bouncing off his cold shell

And draining my being of a loving birthright

My love would, through the mirror, be reflected back at me


   And all the desire, the burning,

The yearning and the care

Would reflect back at me

Showering love

On one who deserves it more.

* * *

For he doesn’t need my love

But I surely do

Have craved long and hard for it

Suffered many a year for it

But now through the mirror I see

I am love.



Q: So, Julie, what is this new novel of yours, The Cupid Business, about?

Julie: It’s about 400 pages, and 100,000 words!

But, seriously, it’s actually about many things. It’s a romantic, comedy novel, written as a sort of a comic monologue with poetry, puns, advice on dating, and at its heart, what I hope is a darn good love story!

Q: Tell us a little more about your main female character, Kate Parkinson.

Julie: Oh, yes, Kate Parkinson. She’s in a bit of a rough place at the beginning of the novel. As the blurb on the back cover of the book says: “Trapped by her demanding, live-in partner, Paul Edmonds on the one hand, and a difficult job as a PA in an insurance company on the other, 37-year old Kate Parkinson has, seemingly, no way to turn.”

I guess a lot of people can feel stuck these days, particularly on the romantic front. However, when it comes to finding love, there is far more choice on the dating scene than ever before. In my day, all we could do is sit and wait by the phone to see if there was going to be another date.

These days, there are so many more opportunities to find love: speed dating, internet dating, matchmaking agencies. And there are so many ways to get in touch: Facebook, texting, instant messaging etc. No wonder, Kate, who suddenly finds herself coming out of a long-term relationship, finds herself overwhelmed at all the options.

Q: So, would it be fair to say that, as well as being a novel, The Cupid Business is actually a bit of a dating manual?

Julie: Well, I guess you could say that. Although I hadn’t intended it to be as such, it was only after I’d read it through for the umpteenth time, that I realised that there is actually a lot of good advice in there for single people looking for love.

Q: Kate’s long-term partner, Paul Edmonds, is a bit of a horror, isn’t he? Is he based on anyone you know?

Julie (laughing): No, thankfully, not at all. All my characters are purely fictional, thank goodness! Can you imagine?

Q: And what about Mark, the romantic lead?

Julie: Alas, he’s pure fiction too. Although I’m sure there are some handsome, single thoracic surgeons out there somewhere!

Q: So where did you get your inspiration to write something like The Cupid Business?

Julie: Well, to paraphrase the famous quote, I guess it was 1 per cent inspiration, and 99 per cent perspiration.

So, in that case, you could say that writing The Cupid Business has been a mixture of love, sweat and tears!

Q: That’s an interesting point. Let’s go through that. Love?

Julie: I wanted to write a novel for the love of writing. I’ve always been a bit of a scribbler but so far it’s been restricted to my blog: short stories, poetry, life writing, articles etc. 

My last publication was in 2002 when I edited a book called Vegan Stories for the Vegan Society.

I’ve tried to write a novel many times in the past but usually I’ve got stuck at chapter three, page three. This time, thankfully, I was able to keep going!

I don’t have a plan when I write. I just get some crazy thought in my head first thing in the morning and try and capture it before it disappears.

For The Cupid Business, it was just a question of turning up at my computer every day and waiting to  see if the characters turned up and if they had anything to say. Thankfully, they did.

For some reason, I thought a love story would be the easiest kind of novel to write. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Q: Why is that? Is it because of some of the novel’s more racy moments?

Julie: Yes, that was really tough. Personally, I favour the “less is more” approach. When it comes to writing racy scenes, I have to confess I’m less 50 Shades of Grey, more 50 shades of Pink!

One of my proof-readers advised me that the novel was too saucy, another said it wasn’t saucy enough! Hopefully, I’ve redressed that balance now.

Personally, I’d say it was more cheeky than saucy, with a lot of humour thrown in, and allowance for the liberal use of the reader’s imagination.

Q: And, carrying on from your earlier comment, you said the novel involved a lot of sweat?

Julie: Well, yes, it did take 8 years in all to write. Not continuously, of course. I did manage to squeeze in study for an Open University arts degree and a part-time job in that time too.

I imagine most people think the life of a romantic novelist is sitting in a flimsy pink dressing gown, eating chocolates, drinking champagne and dictating words of wisdom to a trusty secretary.

It’s all true apart from the chocolates, champagne and the secretary. A lot of it though was written at my computer while in my dressing gown, so I may, one day, call my autobiography, “Productive in Pyjamas!”

Actually, the hardest part was not so much the writing and the editing, but getting to grips with how to self-publish on Amazon and Kindle. That has been a major learning curve!

Q: Yes, why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route? Didn’t you try sending it out to a publisher first?

Julie: Oh yes, that’s where the tears come in (laughs). I kept on sending it off to publishers and agents and it just kept coming right back at me with a “Thanks, but no thanks” printed rejection slip.

Sometimes, I swear it was on a rubber band, and used to come back to me before I’d even sent it out.

Q: That must have been hard.

Julie: Yes, it was a bit off-putting, especially in the early days. I guess that’s why I kept putting it back on the shelf.

But, thank goodness, for encouragement from friends, and for Amazon and Kindle, which have made self-publishing an affordable reality! Nothing beats the thrill of seeing your own work in print!

Q: So, Julie, after The Cupid Business, what’s next?

Julie: I already have some ideas in the pipeline: a book of short stories, a second novel, and perhaps a book of puns. Hopefully, the next book won’t take 8 years to write!

Q: Thanks for talking to us today and good luck with The Cupid Business.

Julie: Thank you!


The Cupid Business, a romantic comedy novel by Julie H. Rosenfield.

Published on Amazon and Kindle on Valentine’s Day: 14.02.2014.
ISBN-13: 978-1493589661 ISBN-10: 149358966

The Cupid Business on Amazon



Dear Mr Honeydew

I see from your magazine, ‘The Chaperone’, that you are currently seeking entries for a short story competition on the theme of love.

I attach my short story “Hot Coals” for your consideration.

Yours sincerely

K.L. Rowling


Dear Mr Rowling

As you will see from our competition rules, in order to enter our contest, you will need to print out your story in a Word document format and mail it to us with the requisite entry fee. Please remember to enclose an SAE, should you want your story returned.

I regret that e-mail entries are not acceptable.

Yours sincerely

B.D. Honeydew

Editor, ‘The Chaperone’

PS Any relation?

Dear Mr Honeydew

What’s all this with Mr Rowling?  Please call me Katherine.

Of course, my name’s not really K.L. Rowling. I just figured that when I eventually get my novel published, they’ll have to put it on the library shelf next to J.K. Rowling and, if her books are out of stock, people will naturally be drawn to pick my book up instead. Crafty, eh?

Katherine L. Rowling (no relation!)


Dear Katherine

Oh yes, I see. Sorry about confusing your gender. These days, you can’t always tell.

About your story, as I say, if you send it by post to ‘The Chaperone’ offices, someone will be sure to read it.

Kind regards

Bernard Honeydew


Dear Bernard

May I call you Bernard? We do seem to be on first name terms now.

So “someone” will read my story, will they? My dear Bernard, I don’t want just anyone to read it. Who did you have in mind:  one of your minions or juniors, perhaps?

In that case, I don’t think so. My story is, shall we say, rather of an adult nature? That’s why I’m sending it expressly to you as the Editor.


Dear Katherine

Well, in that case, we couldn’t possibly consider your story.

‘The Chaperone’ magazine is meant for those dear readers who hark back to a more gentle era. Not the rather more bold, raunchy, anything goes tales of today.




Yes, I see what you mean. I raced to read your feature in last month’s issue, entitled “50 Shades…”, only to find a photo feature on parasols.

Really, Mr Honeydew, speaking as a red-blooded woman, it hardly raises the temperature, does it?



I can assure you that there was a wealth of subtle meaning behind that feature. The orange parasol, I feel, was positively twitching.

Less is more.



Nonetheless, we must agree to disagree.

Now, are you going to read my story or not? Otherwise, I can always submit it to your rival magazine, ‘The Governess’.




Well, in that case, as you insist, and as I do happen to have a little time on my hands this evening, I will take a brief look at it. No promises, mind.

But, in future, I would strongly urge you to submit any future stories in the usual way.




I’m waiting ….



I don’t know what to say.



Does that mean it’s good or …. ?



Let me get straight to the point. Your story, though well-crafted and constructed, and with its excellent use of imagery and dialogue, was really rather ….



Are you still there?



Well, what can I say? That scene with your characters, Tom and Lydia, cavorting in the sauna. Well, I have to say it was, rather, shall we say, steamy?

And that episode in the artist’s studio was, frankly, quite graphic.

My dear Mrs Rowling, readers of ‘The Chaperone’ are only looking for a little romance. More of a gentle saunter than a full-on sauna.

And, frankly, is it even possible or advisable to do such things in a sauna? NB Health and Safety!



PS Is there a Mr Rowling?


I assure you that the scene in the sauna is very possible. Why, in my youth, I myself was actually quite the gymnast. A lady never forgets.

In any case, we must think about your circulation.


PS, There is a “Mr Rowling” as you call him, but he’s always far too busy working to pay me much attention these days.


Nothing wrong with my circulation, I can assure you. I’m not sure about my blood pressure though, after reading your story.



I was talking about your magazine’s circulation, of course.

By the way, I do like the photo of you in the Editor’s Chair feature. Very handsome.


PS Is there a Mrs Honeydew?


Thank you.

I’m glad you like the photo. I’m really rather proud of it myself.



Yes, but I would lose the white whiskers if I were you. Bit too Father Christmassy, in my opinion.



I’ll have you know that my wife, the first and only Mrs Honeydew, loves my beard. She says it makes me look very distinguished.



Good for Mrs Honeydew. I’d say you’d look 10 years younger without your beard. If you were my husband, I’d make you whip it off in no time.

Katherine Growling

Dear Mrs Rowling, Growling, Yowling or whatever you really call yourself

I feel this has really gone far enough and that we should put an end to this correspondence.

Your story is not suitable for publication for this magazine.

The Editor’s Decision is Final.

Bernard D. Honeydew


I am attaching a photo of myself in a new, skin-tight, red leotard with my long brown hair falling loosely around my shoulders. 

I do hope you like it.




Thank you for your photo. Very charming, indeed.  I see what you mean about being a gymnast. You’ve clearly kept your figure over the years.

I do feel, though, that the judicious addition of a parasol might have been called for, with perhaps an accompanying warning for a man of my age.

Mr Rowling is a very lucky man.



I have a suggestion.

Why don’t we get together and set up a new magazine of our own?  Something a little more in touch with the present day?



Well, it’s certainly a thought. You do seem rather gifted.




Ah, does that mean you did like my story, after all?



Rather. I’m still hot under the collar thinking about it. And as for your photo ..



Perhaps we should have a meeting to discuss any … matters arising?



Yes, indeed. We should…

There is just one thing, though.






When you come upstairs tonight, will you please switch all the lights off and leave the dog downstairs?



Really? Why’s that?



Katherine – or rather –  Katie!

I rather think this is one night when we won’t need a chaperone!

All yours



Julie H. Rosenfield               24.2.2014





Monday morning rush. Overnight sleet. Bad day on the Northern Line. Slush, push, crush…

          “The next station is High-gert.” High-gert? Every day, I want to challenge that clipped, impersonal voice. “High-GATE,” I want to scream.

          Where do they get these announcers anyway?

“Customers in the last carriage, please move towards the front doors to leave the train.”

 When did we start becoming customers? What’s wrong with passengers?

“Mind the Gap.”

 Why don’t they just fill it in? Who builds a platform so narrow that it doesn’t meet the train? Or is “Mind the Gap” just a subliminal advert for a well-known clothes store? It wouldn’t surprise me.

 I’m standing all the way in a carriage so jam-packed with people that there’s no room for me to put my bags down. It makes me wary.

 Once, squashed inside the tube train in this way, with my hands full of bags and umbrella, I suddenly became aware of someone touching the back of my coat and fondling my bottom. And then, I was aware of something hard poking my well-padded behind. And it wasn’t a brolly.

 Trying to swivel round, I caught sight of a well-dressed man, holding a briefcase in one hand and my backside in the other: an opportunist who took advantage of our enforced intimacy.

 And with no room for me to jab him with a pointed elbow, and too tightly pressed up against unseeing strangers to cry out, I had no choice but to endure his unwelcome attentions.

 And I’ve never trusted men with briefcases ever since, which is unfortunate as I work as a secretary – or Personal Assistant – at a large insurance company: Grantham and Slater.

  You’ve probably heard of them or seen their corny ads:

 “Assuring you of our assurance always.”

 “Insuring you all ways – always.”

           How about another subliminal advert?

          “Please INSURE you cover all your belongings with us when you leave the train.”

           It wouldn’t surprise me. These days, nothing does.

          So, is it any wonder then, after fighting against the elements, the London underground, time and my personal inclination to stay in bed, that I arrive bruised and bedraggled at the office desk where I am due to remain chained for the rest of the day?

            And late – ten whole minutes. And it’s noticed…

            “Oh, I thought you’d had a better offer,” sneers Marsha Bray, our stick-thin, eagle-eyed administrator. Time-keeper and office pedant. Loved by all. Not.

Nothing escapes Marsha’s newly-lasered, piercing, blue eyes. Sharp, those lasers – just like her tongue.

“Only ten minutes,” I counter, anticipating her next response.

“Thirteen-and-a-half to be exact but who’s counting?” She is, and don’t I know it!

“Oh, and Mr Sykes wants to see you.”

          An early summons from the boss. Not a great start. I had hoped his Monday morning breakfast meeting might have gone on long enough to cover my late entrance. Alas, not. They must have run out of doughnuts. This is not good news.

I drag my soul and my shorthand notepad into my boss’s office.

My boss, Mr William Sykes, a senior director at Grantham and Slater, started out in the insurance field at the age of 17. Sell, sell, sell. “If it’s worth having, it’s worth insuring.”

Insurance Man of the Year. Worked his way up through the ranks and onto the Board. Big, broad-shouldered, burly; wavy, grey hair; thick, tangled eyebrows. He has one joke which he repeats often. Well, every time he speaks to a new client.
“And it’s William Sykes. William – not Bill. I don’t know what the Dickens my parents were thinking of.” And with that, he roars, as if he’s never heard his own joke before.

Every morning of my working week, Soggy Sykes – my nickname for him because he makes such heavy, wet weather of everything – hauls me into his office and loads me with dictation.

Some mornings, unlike Dickens’s hero Oliver, I actually want to shout: “Please Sir, I don’t want any more,” but, of course, I never do. Perhaps I’m just quietly going round the Twist.

On this mundane Monday morning, I emerge from Sykes’s office two hours later, weighed down with the fruits of the morning’s dictation: my humble shorthand pad a glorious testament to the British person’s need for insurance.

“Run for cover – to Grantham and Slater.”

“Your life insurance in our hands.”

It often amazes me how these light, dancing, pencilled shorthand squiggles are sturdy enough to convey such heavy subject matter as endowment policies, remortgages, life cover and all risks policies…

All risks? How about the risk of me dropping down dead of boredom in the middle of one of Sykes’s dense, dictation sessions? How about the risk of me surviving just one day without being lashed by the acerbic wit of Marsha Bray? What about the risk of me exploding with shock at the thought of typing out just one exciting letter?

“Don’t risk your all without our All Risks policies.”

            Shorthand. What an amazing skill that is. Thanks to Sir Isaac Pitman for that one. It took me a while to get the hang of learning the phonetic sounds and symbols; reading them out aloud over and over again: chay, jay; kay, gay; pee, bee….

And, talking of pee: just my luck, ten minutes later, I’m cornered in the Ladies’ by our HR manager, Annabelle Lomax.

“Oh, darling. How are you? Must tell you about my fabulous weekend,” she breathes.

This could take some time. I look in the mirror. It might be wise to take a moment or two to repair the ravages of the morning. Frosted pink lipstick in hand, I gaze at my reflection: long, mid-brown, tousled hair; snub nose; a freckle or two and, as for those messy eyebrows…

 And, next to me, Annabelle: tall; big hair: dark and curly; Roman nose; dazzling red lipstick; huge, porcelain, white teeth.

“Nick took me to quite the best dinner dance on Saturday night. Tickets cost a fortune but he managed to wangle two freebies for us. Contacts, you know,” she says, tapping her generous nose.

            I pretend to be both impressed and interested. I even remember to make the obligatory, complimentary remark on her latest fabulous outfit. Yellow two-piece suit with black polka dots. Perfect for a cocktail party but for an insurance company HR department?

“Oh, I’m glad you like it. Charity shop, you know.”

Inwardly, I groan. Charity shop! How come I never find the latest Dior creations in my local Oxfam? The best I’ve ever done was to find an orange summer skirt which “makes you look like a plump tangerine,” according to one of my kinder friends.

Thank goodness, I didn’t canvass Marsha.

“Still, darling, must fly. People to interview, that sort of thing,” and, with that, Annabelle’s gone.

What a morning. Definitely time for a break. I make my way to the drinks machine. As always, Tony Ross, the IT guy, is there. This explains why no-one can ever get him on the phone – perhaps they should call him the High-Tea guy.

Tony is tall and lanky, with short brown hair and owlish spectacles, and sports his perennial checked shirt and grey cords. Boy, it’s good to see the first friendly face of the morning. Time for a breather and to talk about the weekend and Tony’s latest online dating exploits.

“Hang on, Tony. You actually told someone you’d seen online that, in her profile photo, she looked as if she had good, child-bearing hips?”


“And you haven’t heard from her since?”

“Well, no …”
“And you’re surprised?”

“Yes. It was meant to be a compliment,” he shrugs.

Tony never fails to amaze me. Some men just have a talent for that sort of thing. If there was an Olympic event for Shot-Putting-Your-Foot-In-It and Curling-Up-Your-Toes-With-Embarrassment, he’d be an Olympic gold medal winner every time.

“But you hadn’t even met the girl.”

“But we’d chatted on the internet. I’d virtually met her.”

It’s a mystery to me what people see in the internet. OK, it’s useful to check the weather forecasts, catch up with the news and book last-minute holidays but as for those netheads who spend hours and hours surfing… What a waste of time.

But then, Tony does work in the IT department so I guess it’s not too surprising. At least, this way, he gets paid for it.

“And how about you, Kate? How was your weekend?”

“Don’t ask. Just don’t.”

It had been a bad one – just like most weekends these days. Paul and I fighting. Again.

What had sparked it off this time? Oh yes, I remember. I’d forgotten to unpack one of the bags of shopping from Saturday’s supermarket spree. And the next day, Paul had retrieved a soggy bag of melted, frozen peas from the unopened, plastic carrier bag, left lying on the floor.

Someone didn’t unpack the shopping,” he declared, pointedly.

“Really? Well, what was to stop you doing it, then?” I retorted.

 “Well, at least, I put the tofu away,” he countered.

 And there we were, straight into another bickering session. My usual accusation of how he never helps with the housework, and his standard defence that he looks after the car and that the house is my domain.

On and on – all day Sunday. Both actors knowing their lines so well that neither was willing to change, to improvise, to be spontaneous. Or even say sorry.

Ah well, no use crying over soggy peas except that I did. Silly me. Silly, silly me.

It seems to be happening more often these days. Is it my age? At 37, am I too old for boys and too young for the men-o-pause? Or is it, I wonder, just time for a change of a different kind?

I’ve often wished that men could be like library books. You pick one you like the look of, take it home, spend time with it for a week or two and when you’re done, you take it back to the library and exchange it for another one. No questions asked, no hurt feelings and, if you like it, you have the option to renew.

Why aren’t marriage licences renewable? An old man once told me that it used to cost seven-shillings-and-six-pence to buy a marriage licence which was the same price as a dog licence. I wonder which was the better value. At least, with a dog, they never complain about burnt dinners or erroneously defrosted vegetables.

Although to tell the truth, Paul and I aren’t actually married. Although these 15 years we’ve been living together, it certainly feels like it. I don’t know why we’ve never married. Somehow, I’ve never felt able to make that final commitment.

Maybe Tony, although he doesn’t realise it yet, is actually better off. Stay single, stay free, keep your options open. Sometimes, my heart feels as frozen as those wretched peas.

Still, try telling Tony that. He’s desperate to find someone, to be in a relationship, to settle down. Too desperate, I think, and it shows. Still, he’s a nice guy and that’s why I like to encourage him when I can.

Still, no-one can doubt his prowess on the computer. Just as well, for the number of times my machine breaks down. That’s how we’ve got to know each other so well, really. So many times he’s rescued me when old Sykes has had a deadline to meet and I’ve been faced with a computer which won’t do as it’s told. I just dial extension 369 and he’s there in a flash drive.

And, for that sort of service, a little coddling and advice about women is well worth it.

Recalling Tony’s earlier remarks about his disastrous online date, I start to tease him as he reaches for the chocolate digestives: “Go easy on those biscuits, Tony, or else people will be commenting on the size of your hips too.”

Smiling to myself, I manage to duck the empty plastic cup he hurls in my direction.

For all his faults, Tony does make me giggle. And, at Grantham and Slater, you need to laugh a lot – just to get through the day.

             “So, how was your day?” I ask Paul when I arrive back at home in Finchley this evening. Although seeing his face crumple as he collapses on the settee, I have a fair idea. It’s a shame because I was hoping to broach the subject of me maybe giving my job up and taking on something part-time and, if possible, a bit closer to home. It’s something we’ve talked about before but I’m not sure how much he’s taken in.

“Today was tough, Kate. Look, I know you want to jack in your job at the insurance place, but things are really tight at work at the moment. We do need you to keep on working there for a little longer: just till we can be sure of Athens…”

Athens. Paul’s work is a mystery to me. Lots of wheeling and dealing from what I can tell. Building contracts mainly but who knows what else goes on? But although Paul wears a sharp suit, he never seems quite sharp enough to land the one big deal that will give us the financial freedom for me to pursue my own thing. And with a mortgage weighing heavily round our necks, there’s no choice but work, work, work for the pair of us.

            “Dinner’s nearly ready,” I soothe, removing the cardboard sleeve from the Just-Heat-It-Up Chilli ‘n’ Rice ready meal and piercing the plastic cover with a fork.

Is there an art to cooking these things or does everybody else end up with the same burnt bits inside the plastic container? Ah well, who’s got time to cook proper meals these days?

I fantasise about baking my own multi-seeded, granary bread; laying the dinner table with candlesticks and solid silver cutlery, and serving up some gorgeous, golden-orange, butternut squash soup for starters; an exotic, saffron-infused, wild mushroom medley, wrapped in home-made puff pastry, accompanied by new potatoes and a julienne of vegetables for the main course and an enchanting, hot raspberry soufflé for dessert. Ah, those TV chefs have a lot to answer for. Dream on!

“You want bread with yours?” I shout through the hatch, reaching to open the wrapper of the cut-price, sliced white bread. Oven-ready, ready-sliced, nearly ready.

And, after what I laughingly call dinner, a night in front of the box. We generally catch up with one of the TV soaps while we balance our dinner on our knees. I found a couple of those cushion trays in a pound shop recently and they’re just the job.

One thing about watching TV together, though, that really annoys me is how, every time the ads come on, Paul reaches for the remote control and switches channels: just to make sure he isn’t missing anything on the other side. And, despite my entreaties, he always manages to clip the second half of the serial. He really is a remote control freak.

Tonight, as he usually does after dinner, Paul gets ready to go upstairs to our spare bedroom – his office – to spend the evening on his computer. I remember to grab him before he disappears.

“Remember, I’m seeing Suzie tomorrow night. I’ll be meeting her straight from work. You’ll have to get your own dinner.”

Always best to give him a bit of notice so he can pop into the chippy and get his dinner on the way home. Ah, modern life, so many conveniences yet so much inconvenience.

I hope the Northern Line will be working tomorrow, I think, as I iron my sensible white blouse ready for the next gripping day at Grantham and Slater. At least, let me get there early for once, just to see Marsha’s face.


Extract from the novel, The Cupid Business by Julie H. Rosenfield

Published on Amazon and Kindle 14.02.2014  The Cupid Business on Amazon The Cupid Business on Kindle
ISBN-13: 978-1493589661



Ever since she’d been a teenager, it had been the same refrain.

“Why can’t you meet a nice Jewish boy?”

Rachel sighed. “But I don’t want to meet a nice Jewish boy,” she thought to herself. “I want something different. I want a bad boy.”

Her mother was off again. “Mrs Fishman’s daughter’s just got engaged and she’s two years younger than you.”

Rachel shrugged her shoulders, uninterested in the dating successes of her mother’s neighbours’ offspring.

“You could find yourself a nice accountant, or even better, a nice Jewish doctor,” and here, a tear sprang to Rachel’s mother’s soft brown eyes.

“A doctor,  that would be one in the eye for Mrs Goldbaum. Perhaps even a specialist?” Rachel’s mother had to sit down quickly, overcome at the thought.

No, Rachel didn’t want a nice Jewish boy. She wanted something different.

There had been boys at uni, of course. Bad, bad boys. There was Tariq, who took her out on his motorbike; Christopher, the teacher who gave her lines that were totally unconnected to detention, and Ho-Sung, the martial arts fanatic …

“Or a solicitor, maybe. Or a barrister?”

Rachel’s mother was off again. Rachel smiled. Barrister! The closest she’d been to that was that barista, Carlos, she’d met at the student coffee bar. He’d certainly been close to the law a few times but not in the way that Rachel’s mother had ever had in mind.

All too soon, though, uni came to an end. And, unable to find a job in London that would pay to rent more than a shoebox, Rachel had had no choice but to come back home to Leeds, and suffer her parents’ rules.

“But what if I don’t want to meet a nice Jewish boy?” Rachel asked her mother, for the umpteenth time.

“Not want to meet a nice Jewish boy? Rachel, really. You have to marry a Jewish man, so you can bring your children up Jewish. Saul, come and listen to this.”

Rachel’s father, Saul, put down his newspaper, wearily. It had been so nice to have Rachel back home but, all too soon, the arguments had started up again. He reached for his cheque book and a clipping from the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

“Rachel, do me a favour. Just join this. Here’s the money. Keep me and your mum, happy, eh?”

Rachel read the clipping. A new Jewish dating website called Dates All Ready had just been set up: “Have we got Jews for you!” ran the headline, accompanied by an eye-watering joining fee. “Find the Smoked Salmon for your Bagel,” continued the ad, accompanied by photos of simpering, happy couples.

“But I don’t want smoked salmon,” replied Rachel, “I’m a vegetarian …”

“While you’re living under our roof …,” began Sarah, Rachel’s mother.

Saul looked over at her, pleadingly. Anything to preserve the peace ….

“OK, OK. Thanks, Dad, I’ll give it a try,” Rachel conceded. “I’ll just go up to my room and sign up.

Wearily, she turned on the computer, logged into the Dates All Ready website. Search males: 20-45, she instructed. It was all so predictable.

“Benny: already know him from school. Mummy’s boy. No thanks.”

“Paul: went on a date with him once. What he lacked in personality, he made up for in perspiration. No wonder, he’s still single…”

“Joe: he’s still on the market,” and then,  remembering his rather excessive interest in her clothes at the youth club dance: “Thought he’d be a Josephine, by now.”

There was a knock on the bedroom door. Rachel’s mother popped her head round the door.

“Just brought you a cup of hot chocolate. Seen anyone you fancy yet?”

“Not yet, mum.”

“Oh, he looks nice, what about this one?” said her mum, pointing at a picture of an older guy with a scowling face and greying hair.

“I recognise that one: Bernie Fox,” said Rachel. “But didn’t I hear that he’d got married?”

“Twice,” said her mum, “But, hey, hope springs eternal … Anyway, keep looking. We just want you to be happy….”

“Thanks, Mum, I just need to join up first before I can contact anyone anyway.”

“I’ll leave you to it,” said her mum. “Good luck.”

To humour her parents and to keep the peace, Rachel started filling in her online profile.

She didn’t really want to meet anyone on the website, anyway, so decided not to put too much effort into it. Once she finally found herself a job, and could leave home for good, she wouldn’t have to submit to any of this pressure anymore. For now, she guessed with a sigh, she’d just have to toe the line.

She searched for a photo of herself which didn’t make her look too attractive. She uploaded one particularly unprepossessing one of her with her long, dark hair scraped back and wearing no eyeshadow on her almond eyes. Anything to scare any potential suitors away …

After all, it was not as if she had anything against Judaism itself. She’d grown up in the comforting rituals of her parents’ religion, and looked forward, as much as anyone else, to the songs and candles of Sabbath and Chanucah, the big family meals at Passover, even the hungry, soul-searching of Yom Kippur.

But, she reflected, there was a whole world out there. At uni, she’d joined in just as passionately with the lights of Diwali, given up chocolate for Lent and even had a go at fasting for Ramadan…

Religion, she mused, was like a chocolate box. Some rules were hard, some were soft, but it was nice to be able to pick and choose. Why limit yourself to one religion and just one boy from that religion?

Especially when her interests and hobbies were so diverse. She loved the speed of motorbikes, loved watching wrestling, liked hunky men who were good with their hands: builders, plumbers, construction workers. And she had a particular aversion to accountants.

Dutifully, she filled in all her requirements. If the website were offering her a filling for her bagel, she knew deep down that, like the centre of a bagel, the result would be a big fat zero.

After all, she might find herself a Jewish baker but a Jewish biker, and one who liked martial arts and bricklaying? Fat chance!

Once she’d finished her registration, she lay down on her bed and flicked through the pages of her favourite fashion magazine.

Ten minutes later, there was a ping on her computer.

“Jonathan winked at you,” came the message from the website.

She quickly read his profile. No motorbikes, no kung fu but, predictably, Jonny liked jazz.

Jazz? No, heavy metal was more Rachel’s thing. Dream on.

“David smiled at you,” came another message.

She glanced through his profile. “Hoping to become a partner in my own accountancy firm one day,” it ran.

She yawned and was about to close down the website when – ping –  a message came that Reuben would like to talk to her.

Reuben indeed. No way was she going to indulge in an online chat with another hopeless candidate for her affections. She was, she reminded herself, only doing this for her parents but still….

“Press Yes to accept, press No to reject,” screamed the online message.

“I should just press No,” thought Rachel, savagely. Then, looking at her watch, “If I’m quick enough, I can just nip out to the pub. Anything’s better than being stuck in with this.”

She was about to press No, when she took a quick look at Reuben’s photo. He was dressed in martial arts wear, and had masses of long, black wavy hair…

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt just to have a chat,” Rachel thought, “As long as that is his photo and not downloaded from some kung fu website.”

They chatted long into the night. Reuben told Rachel that he was a black belt in karate, that he owned a motorbike …

“It’s hardly a Harley yet, but hopefully, one day ….”

“Reuben,” Rachel said, cheekily, “You do sound like a bad boy ….”

At breakfast, the next morning, Rachel appeared quite sunny at the table.

“You were up late last night,” said her mother, serving the porridge. “Tapping away at your computer?”

“Yes, I met someone on that dating site Dad asked me to join. He’s asked me to meet up with him….”

“Oh,” said her mother, her bosom swelling with pride. “What’s his name? Is he a doctor?”

“He’s a web designer called Reuben,” said Rachel, and saw her parents exchange knowing looks. “He wants me to go and meet him for a drink tonight, at a pub in town.”

“A pub in town?” spluttered Saul, Rachel’s father. “Can’t he come and pick you up like a decent human being?”

“Dad, you did want me to meet someone from the website…”

“OK, OK, but just be careful, eh? You don’t know this guy ….”


Later, in the pub, her heart beating wildly, Rachel looked up as a tall slim man with dark hair, and clad in motorbike gear, made his way over to her.

In the pub, they talked and talked for hours.

“Yes, it’s my third motorbike …. I’ve practised martial arts for years …. I had a go at fitting my own kitchen.”

She told him of her dreams: to leave home, to find a job in fashion, to have her own line of alternative clothing one day.

Looking round her in the pub, she caught sight of Mrs Fishman’s daughter sitting at a corner table with a pale youth, each silently nursing an orange juice.

“Another pint?” asked Reuben, knowingly.

She smiled. The evening was going so well, Reuben, was, quite frankly, gorgeous and seemed to complement her wide range of interests perfectly.

“I’ve really enjoyed this evening. Would you like to meet up again?” asked Reuben, soon after last orders.

“Yes, I would,” said Rachel, with a smile. “You’re like a breath of fresh air…”

“Rachel, there is perhaps one thing I should tell you …,” said Reuben, his expression darkening suddenly

“Oh, no,” thought Rachel, “He seems so perfect. If he tells me, after all this, that he’s married or gay or …”

“I think it’s only fair to tell you that … I’m not actually Jewish. And that my name’s not actually Reuben, it’s Ronan. And I’m a Catholic…”

Not Jewish? But the website ….?

“Yes, I know it was wrong of me. But I do like Jewish girls. I guess I just wanted something different.”

Something different. Rachel laughed to herself, happily making arrangements to see Ronan the following Tuesday. And, after all, as she reasoned to herself, her parents could hardly complain. After all, hadn’t they wanted her to meet someone from the website and hadn’t she done just that? She was just being a dutiful daughter, and, as she rode home, on the back of Ronan’s motorbike, she could swear she saw the corner of Mrs Fishman’s front curtains flicker in the breeze.







The shadow people. You’ve seen them all around you. When you’re on the tube, in the bus, at the airport. All sorts of people, all sizes, shapes and descriptions. People you’ve never met, never spoken to, going about the fabric of their business, as if some big casting director in the sky looking down on them, has seen them and said “Quick, Jill’s coming down the street, best put a few extras in, make it look authentic.”

Well, that day, the world seemed even more full of shadowy figures than ever. The first train was late, and that seemed to delay the second one too, and then, before you knew it…….

“I guess no-one’s going to be on time today,” said a pleasant male voice. I looked up. And standing there was a tall, young, slim, blonde man with deep blue eyes and a cheeky grin. Sure, I’d noticed him on the platform many times before, but I’d never actually spoken to him. I guess he was just like one of those regular TV extras, you see them propping up the bar in the soaps sometimes when you  manage to steal a glimpse away from the main characters. Just part of the scenery. I’ve that read some of them even have a career, just doing that. Imagine.

I put down my paper. “No, I guess, not.” I agreed,“I hope the train comes soon though, I’m frozen.”

He looked at me with a kind smile. “Hang on, I’ll get you a coffee. Don’t want your nose turning blue now, do we?”

And then, before I could stop him, he’d disappeared back into the crowd. Eventually, I spotted him waiting at the back of a very long queue at the small café on the platform.

Ten minutes later, the train arrived and it was packed. Just time for the doors to open quickly, and for just two people to get out and make space for two lucky people to get in ………

But what to do now? Jump quickly into the train and so lessen my chance of an even bigger dressing-down from Mr Hayes on the importance of punctuality, or miss my chance with quite the cutest guy I’d seen in Bumblebridge for a long time?

“Well, are you getting on or not?” shouted a stout man behind me, clad in a Burberry overcoat. “Some of us have work to go to.”

That decided me. I jumped on and so did Mr Burberry, and then despite the protests of the rest of the crowd, the train doors closed.

The last thing I saw through the window before the train departed was the young blonde chap frantically waving at me holding two cups of coffee.

“Drat, and double drat,” I thought as I arrived at Newbury’s Bank.

“Punctuality, Miss Robertshaw,” said  my short, bespectacled boss, Mr Hayes, looking derisorily at his watch. “This is a bank, you know, not a drop-in.”

Pointless trying to explain about late trains, missed coffee cups and the like. There was already a queue building up at the counter.

“Thank goodness, you’re here, Jill,” breathed Polly at the next counter, “Old Hayes was going to have your guts for garters today and no mistake.”

But there wasn’t too much time to brood on the morning’s events, not with all those customers waiting to pay in this, take out that, open this account, close that account, transfer this, change that … on and on till 5.00 pm.

I looked for him on the train going home, of course, and again on the platform the next morning. But nothing. I even let one train go, just in case, but thought I’d best not risk missing any more.  After all, the blonde guy was cute, but I wasn’t about to let Hayes fire me now, not when I needed the money for a new flat I’d seen advertised in the Humbridge Estate Agents’ window. A place of my own was something I dreamed of, somewhere with a bit more space. It was just getting so cramped at home.

“Now, Jill, you know you can stay here as long as you like,” my sister Vivienne had assured me, “It’s just that with the baby coming soon, we will be needing a bit more room.”

And she was right which is why I needed that job at the bank with its special staff mortgage discount just a bit more than I needed a cute guy at the moment.

And, as ever more yellow ducks and blue rabbits started appearing on the nursery room walls, I realised I would need to make my move very soon.

With all the excitement, after a few weeks, I even forgot to look out for the blond guy anymore. He’d obviously melted back into the shadows by now. In any case, I had more important things to think about. I had the chance of a beautiful one-bedroomed ground floor flat, just on the outskirts of town. It would need taking a train from a different station to work as it was on a different line. But that didn’t matter. And with its charming  wooden, country-style fitted kitchen and its delightful little garden, I really didn’t have to think twice.

It must have been on the third day going into work from the new station that I spotted him. He had his nose in a book and was quite oblivious to me. Funny him turning up like that at my new station. I wasn’t going to say anything at first but then ……….

“Due to signalling problems, please expect significant delays on all trains today.”
“Significant delays,” I thought, “Here we go again,” and an image of Hayes’ puce face and quivering moustache came unbidden into my mind.

He put down his book momentarily and our eyes met.

I’m not sure who spoke first.

“Oh, it’s you, the train’s been…….”
”Oh, goodness, look, I’m sorry about the coffee but…”

And then we both laughed. And, in between laughing, I explained about my new flat, and he told me how he’d recently split up with his girlfriend and was back living with his parents in a house which was actually only two streets away.

“Perhaps, we could go out for a drink one evening,” said the young man, whose name turned out to be Steve. “The Lizard Arms has some quite decent pub grub these days and a roaring fire.”

And who could resist an invitation like that? After all, sometimes it was good to come in from the shadows. And after all, who knew what extras the future might have in store for both of us?



Love is a dangerous business.









In love










Your heart.

I’m sure if Health and Safety were to do a















No-one would ever fall in love at all.


We’re here in the lovely garden

Giving praise to the oak and pine

Him, my young, gentle gardener

Me, older and more refined.

* * *

We’ve marvelled how roses renew

And blossom flutters down from the tree

When, all of a sudden, he turns

And announces that he loves me!

* * *

I feel now the hope of spring

Breaking through to my locked-in life

With an endlessly, fault-finding husband

And me, a sad, dreary wife

* * *

I stare at him long as I can

  Till reality dawns all anew

I sigh as I have to agree

“Yes. And I love yew too.”


If, one day, you ever want to come back

And I pray to heaven that you will

Don’t ever think that it’s too late,

Or it’s been too long

Or I’ve changed

Or there’s been too much pain

*   *   *

I’ll still be here, waiting

Like I do every day

Sitting, hoping, dreaming,

Thinking of you

Wishing the day away

* * *

You won’t need to say anything

Nothing to explain

No need to say sorry

Nothing at all.

* * *

Just say: “I’m back”

Write it on the sand

Draw it with a finger in the wind

Hold a hand to your heart

I’ll feel it where you are

* * *

Just say “I’m back”

And smile

Like you’d just stepped out for a paper

Or a breath of fresh air

* * *

And I’ll smile back

And whisper “I know”

And then I’ll hold you

Till the waves of the world turn black.

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