These three slender women gorge on a mammoth

Monday mornings are always a bit of a trial for Melissa Keighley. Feeling tired, listless and a little bit queasy, she struggles to do up the waistband of her skirt, and tries not to linger on the sight of her bloated belly in the mirror before heading out the door. No wonder Melissa’s not feeling her best. Even by her standards, this weekend was a bit of a blow-out.

I’m proud I was a divorcee in my twenties

At first it was difficult finding the words. I’d meet new people, smile and exchange chit-chat about what we did for a living. Then I’d wait for the dreaded question: Are you married? I was 27, had just separated and was about to get divorced. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud. So I never did. If people ever asked about my marital status, I’d hastily change the subject.

In search of the real old England

I was just dozing off against my head rest, as the scent of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, when an announcement over the tannoy roused me. Next stop, Moreton in Marsh. I’d joined the train at Reading and had been marveling at how the landscape had changed through my train window – from built-up towns to green fields, to sudden hills and valleys with traditional dry-stone walls. I was travelling in the Cotswolds. I’d never been and the only time I’d seen any Cotswolds buildings or countryside was on the show Escape to the Country.

The love everyone said was doomed

A spring evening in Venice and music drifts across St Mark’s Square. It is the love songs — sentimental, weepy — that lure me to Cafe Florian where I sit alone at a table, sip my drink and reflect. The music acts like a balm. I’ve escaped alone to Italy for a weekend break and finally begin to let go of the stresses of my life in London: the pressure of holding down a job that demands all my time and energy, the unremitting tedium of my daily commute and the growing sense that — despite everything I have materially — my life, at its core, is empty.

The other side of grief – how to survive grief

Thirteen years ago, if someone had told me one day I’d be laughing at daft memories of my dad, or able to talk about him without crying, or forget how he looked when he was dying at the end, I’d have told them they were insane. Back then, just after my dad had died of cancer, I was lost in a black hole of grief and despair.

The joy of being bored with someone

When we first met, my husband had a cigarette dangling loosely from his lips a la James Dean. Now he wears comfy slippers. When we first met, we’d go out at nine in the evening and stay out until four am. Now we go to bed by nine and are woken at five by our two young children.