Will friends be there for you?

THE end of a marriage is painful enough without “friends” taking sides and sticking the boot in.Madonna and Guy Ritchie had barely drawn breath after announcing their seven-year marriage had ended before “friends” who'd enjoyed their inner circle started to put their two-penneth in.

THE end of a marriage is painful enough without “friends” taking sides and sticking the boot in.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie had barely drawn breath after announcing their seven-year marriage had ended before “friends” who'd enjoyed their inner circle started to put their two-penneth in.

He was an insensitive gold-digging freeloader, cried her mates. She was a tough old boot workaholic who slathered herself in pricey unguents, slept in plastic sacks and loved her weights more than him, said his mates.

And the news was?

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Whatever Madonna, an icon for women of her generation - independent, hard-working, visionary, driven - saw in the boorish oafish Guy Ritchie in the first place was a mystery to many.

But, once married and committed to raising a family, we hoped theirs would be the union that bucked the trend, defied the sceptics and lasted the course. Almost eight years isn't bad by showbiz standards.

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But it went the way of the typical celebrity marriage. Disintegrated to an almighty fight about money. And lots of it.

Their break-up is played out on the world stage but the crumbling of the Ritchie marriage the mirror image of split ups every day around us all - apart from the number of noughts on the final settlement.

A marriage breaks down - he finds someone new, she finds someone new, they can't stand the pretence any longer; they can't stand the sight of one another.

In many cases, reconciliation is possible - until family and friends stick their oars in and make everything worse.

As soon as third parties wade in, take sides, voice opinions, tittle-tattle, any marriage might as well be declared dead.

Peculiarly, people love to interfere in a marriage break up. They really believe they're helping, “supporting” and rallying round their loved one.

But nine times out of 10 friends and family manage to make matters far worse, scuppering any chance of patching up a relationship.

It happens all the time. I've watched so many marriages break down. If the couples were left to face the situations by themselves, with family and friends there to listen, make the tea, offer a shoulder to cry on, there might be hope.

But sparing the counsel and shutting up comes hard to most people. They have to have their say, although it's none of their blinking business. Hey presto, a bit of marital strife becomes full-scale war.

Like Madonna's marriage, a break up isn't just about a couple. It's about a family.

Children should never hear either parent criticised by the other or, just as bad, either parent criticised by friends and family. Children love both their parents and shouldn't have to be burdened with adult problems, blame and retribution.

They mustn't be party to the bitching, the backbiting, the sniping.

And they don't need to hear granny ranting what a hopeless waster their father is.

At least Madonna never allows newspapers or television in her homes so her children won't hear their mother's and father's “friends” adding bile to the break-up. But one day they will - and that's not fair.

Marital problems don't make a couple's lives public property of family and friends. A divorce is not gossip and scandal. It's devastating, not just for the couple, but for the innocent children who end up the losers whatever the end settlement.

And those children's welfare should be at the front of everyone's minds before they ever open their mouths.

IF we believe all we read, the past times my family have enjoyed this autumn makes us a rarity because they're so quaint they've virtually died out and I will live forever, or well past 100 at least.

Picking hedgerow blackberries and visiting the library on Saturday mornings are our family favourites. But, according to headlines, both are dying activities. Now families shop, go to the gym or sit in different rooms watching TV or playing screen games. Not in our house.

Then, just as I was feeling old-fashioned and like a relic of forgotten times, I turn the page to find a professor from the department of food science at Leeds University listing 20 foodstuffs to help a long healthy life.

Scanning the list, I see I consumed each and every one of them in spades - apart from green tea - and have done for years. Now I'm panicking my pension won't stretch into my 110-plus years.

And the world's oil is due to run out in 40 years. We're all doomed.Believing all we read - just look at all the panic about the credit crunch - really can turn us into nervous wrecks.

TO my shame, I still ask the butcher for a pound of mince or sausages rather than 450 grammes.

I know a pack of 450g mince is 1lb because I see it regularly packaged in the supermarket. But asking for a pound is habit.

The government has caved into “metric martyrs” who sell goods only in Imperial measures and will only prosecute in extreme circumstances.

This is a mistake and makes a mockery of the metric system. Everyone under 30 knows grammes and kilos back to front. It's just us old stick-in-the-muds that don't bother because we're too lazy.

We couldn't pick and choose when it came to decimalisation. Pounds, shillings and pence were far more engrained in the British psyche but they had to be left in the past where they belong, just where the Imperial system that should be sent.

LIKE gratuitous violence, gratuitous swearing has no place on TV.

The TV watershed is pointless. At 9pm most 11, 12 and 13 -year-olds are still up and some programmes post-9pm are ideal for them.

Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food on Channel 4 is one. Every teenager should be able to cook.

But Oliver should hang his head in shame. Far from being a role model, he's a foul-mouthed fool, peppering his chat with profanities and expletives.

Gordon Ramsay might know no better, the uncouth oaf. But Jamie, Jamie, Come on.

You're better than that.

Perhaps he thinks he has to swear because he's in Rotherham and it's the only way to fit in. If so, it's so condescending he should have been run out of town.

Would he let his girls, sweetly named Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo, watch his programme?

We all know the answer. And when they do, just what will they think of their dad's language?

COMPENSATION for death always feels unsavoury.

How much is a life worth? Is a husband worth more than a daughter? How is a benchmark set?

Can the loss of life ever be compensated? Of course it can't. Money means nothing compared to such loss.

So it was with queasiness that I read that murdered student Meredith Kercher's parents were seeking £20m compensation for her death to be split between family members upon a conviction.

Her murder was horrendous in the first weeks of her adventure as a student in Italy. The trial has yet to start and lawyers are talking telephone numbers for compensation.

Somehow a big payout now seems more important than justice being done. That is so wrong.

PETE Burns - he of the two over-inflated lilos for lips - is hoping to receive a seven-figure sum in damages for lip injections in Harley Street he claims left him “repulsive.”

What's he claiming for the rest of his plastic surgery then?

HOSPITALS come in for so much stick these days, I thought I'd pass on experiences of friends who have nothing but praise for the efficiency, expertise and charm of staff at all levels at the James Paget University Trust.

One was fast-tracked through ultra sound scans and gynaecology after an instant referral from her GP with a speedy diagnosis and treatment.

Staff and the system at every stage were fantastic, reassuring, straightforward and caring. She could not be more grateful.

Another involved two friend's fathers, both admitted as emergencies for different conditions and both received the most outstanding care and treatment.

Over the past years, I've heard nothing but glowing reports from personal experiences of our hospital.

When newspapers are so full of criticism of the NHS, we should take a moment to be thankful and grateful for the high-performing quality hospital in our community and the first-class service we get from it and everyone who works there.

TO shine and succeed needs more than natural talent - it demands a work ethic, single-minded determination and pure hard graft, according to a top sociologist.

At least three hours a day practice for a decade is what's needed to be a winner like Jonny Wilkinson or Tiger Woods.

Perhaps someone should tell all those starry-eyed wannabes on the X-Factor who seem to think all it takes is a wink from Simon Cowell and a whine how they “really want this more than anything” to make the world their oyster.

DAVID Cameron has been taking guidance from a marketing agency called Pretty Little Head about how to persuade women to come back to the Conservatives.

The fact that he's had to pay to find out how to make women vote for him rings alarm bells.

But a female-run agency called Pretty Little Head? Enough said.

LORD Baden Powell will be spinning in his grave.

Scouts are to be taught sex education.

The organisation that prides itself on night hikes, wholesome outdoor pursuits and knot tying is branching out into the thorny issue of teenage sex.

And I thought parents encouraged Scout membership to get them away from the teenage obsession with sex - or is it the adults' obsession with talking to teenagers about it.

Is there anywhere teenagers can go where they won't be bombarded with information about sex? No wonder they're all doing it - they can't escape it.

The Scouting movement should stick to Baden Powell's sound advice in his book Scouting for Boys for boys feeling sexual urges to “wash your parts in cold water and cool them down.”

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