Dating on your doorstep

Dating on your doorstep

WE are most definitely in an age of supporting anything that is local to us. Whether we are talking about local shops, businesses or service providers, the overriding mantra is BUY LOCAL, and the concept makes perfect sense. Why travel when you have everything you need conveniently based right on your doorstep, and the products you need are tailored exactly to what you want.

Using local businesses makes us feel good because we know we are supporting our local economy AND at the same time we enjoy feeling connected to our community as there is great sense of ownership and responsibility.

There is an increasing trend for doing things and buying things near to where we live. We relish the familiarity and security that buying local gives us. Buying local makes us feel GOOD. And it is easy.

We are positively embracing buying our food locally, so why not apply the same theory to online dating?



After all, dating sites are service providers, the taboos of yesteryear are now a distant memory, and they have to be based somewhere. More often than not, trying to find a real person as opposed to a multi billion dollar business behind a dating site is pretty impossible. is based in rural Oxfordshire and is owned by two entrepreneurs who both live locally and have strong local connections. The team that supports the business is also made up of local business owners with backgrounds in web design and development, PR and communications and, of course, accounting and business services.

The whole project is deeply embedded into the local Oxfordshire community and provides a specific dating service for people in that area. With the city of Oxford and its dreaming spires right on the doorstep, there are plenty of amazing venues for dates and a wide selection of local single people who want to spend time with each other, rather than embarking on arduous journeys in the hope that this might be ‘the one.’

Members can be secure in the knowledge that the site they have chosen to use (which is, incidentally, currently free) is owned and controlled by real people who live in a village probably not that far from them. Add to that the fact that at least two of the people involved in developing the business have racked up over 100 Internet dates between them, and most definitely know what they are taking about, and any qualms you may have had about joining a dating site should quickly disappear. The business is ethical,  transparent and has a website jammed with free dating tips and advice.

While the big boys of Internet dating such as Match, Pof, OK Cupid and others remain undoubtedly the market leaders, smaller sites like are championing the cause for “buying” local and using local services.

Clare Beaney, is one half of the business partnership. She said: “I have had a lot of internet dates, and I didn’t want to travel hundreds of miles to meet someone. The big sites do have hundreds of thousands of members which is great, but do we really have time to wade through a large percentage of ‘unsuitables’ who live too far away? was created to provide an open and honest approach to Internet dating and to offer single people an enhanced online dating experience. We have taken this one step further by limiting our members to an area local to Oxford and Oxfordshire. We accept this this could be a business risk, but conversely also feel it makes us unique in what is a very overcrowded market.”

With many newbie online daters feeling overwhelmed by the well established dating sites, and horror stories regularly appearing in the media about online dating as a whole, is friendly, small and has a nurturing, community feel to it. The idea is to link up local people with similar interests and see if Cupid takes over.

Anona Hessler, the other partner in the business added: “We set out to provide an honest Internet dating experience, and that is what we will continue to do. Oxford and Oxfordshire has a wealth of interesting single people all looking for love, and we aim to bring them together by making matching as easy as possible. Why waste time connecting with people who are half a day away, when you can spend that precious time getting to know someone who almost lives on your doorstep?”

Ok so it’s January…get a grip people!

Yes it is the first and possibly dreariest month of 2016, and apparently tomorrow is officially THE most depressing day of the year-although as it is my dear sister-in-law’s birthday too she may have different ideas about that!

I am currently working on my first novel. I have written other books before but this is an actual grown up work of fiction. Its working title is I Thought I Knew You, and it has been a work in progress for a good couple of years. However, 2016 is the year it has to come to fruition and be actually finished.

The book follows the lives of various characters-some who have lives filled with abundance but genuinely think they have been dealt a shitty hand, and those who literally have nothing or are facing enormous challenges in their lives, but still find time for other people.

One of my characters spirals easily into a major breakdown because she can’t fit into her skinny jeans and her nanny decides to leave, another faces equally first world problems when she can’t have the dream house she feels she deserves. The main male character lies, cheats and is constantly looking for ways to make cash from anyone he comes into contact with, but maintains that the way his life has turned out is everyone else’s fault, and another character, Marcia, is dealing with the sudden and suspicious death of her husband.

The title of the book has been chosen to reflect the fact that sometimes we THINK we know everything about our friends but when things get really bad, the truth inevitably comes out. It is a book about those who have so much and don’t realise it, and those who have so little but just get on with it. I am particularly pleased with the ending but more of that later!

The books is not designed to be preachy BUT, and it is a BIG BUT my hope is that when people read it (fingers crossed they will!) it might just make them realise how lucky they are to have what they have. I am blessed with good health, an amazing family, loyal, kind and considerate friends and a job that I love. I live in an amazing place and I am writing this from my dream Nordic cabin at the bottom of my garden. I am very, very lucky.

I have two very good friends who are both battling breast cancer at the moment. They are amazing women and far, far too young to be going through all this. I have another friend who is dealing with the fact that after being married for 50 years, her parents now have to be cared for in care homes that are miles away from each other. Separation has been foisted onto them because of their advancing years and complex health issues, and they will never live as man and wife again. They have basically been forced into a divorce. After 50 years together in the same house, how can that be fair?

Another friend continues to fight for justice with a health organisation following the avoidable death of her son.

These, my friends, are things to be worried about. Life events that warrant more than a bit of a moan on social media. But these friends of mine don’t moan, they get on with it. They get up every day put on their lippy and start the fight all over again. And I know they will all continue to do this for as long as they need to. They have too much to lose to just give up and collapse in a heap of self indulgent misery-even though that is their entitlement.

So this month, our worst month when top of the list of worries are shockers such as supermarkets running out of the kale needed to feed our juicing habits, or how much we spent over Christmas or how  large our arse has become because of eating our bodyweight in Quality Street, or the fact that we MUST get to the sales and buy that must-have bargain, I would urge anyone who has worries of this level to take a step back, think and look at what you have around you. Chances are you are pretty damn lucky.





The art of being a step mother (originally published in Red magazine -May 2015)



This was commissioned by RED magazine and appeared in the May 2015 issue.

As my new boyfriend Colin ambled towards the corner shop, I wound down the car window and called after him, ‘Don’t forget the milk, babe.’ He turned back with a warm smile, acknowledging my request. Sitting back contentedly, my thoughts drifted to our romantic supper for two – yet they were quickly interrupted, when a tiny, but perfectly articulate, voice rising up from the back of the car.
‘He is not your babe, he is my daddy!’
I turned to look at the angelic three year-old – Colin’s daughter, Charlotte – her little face screwed into a scowl and I’m ashamed to say, not for the first time, the anger rose inside me. I found myself glaring down at this small being, who was staking her emotional claim over my partner with such force. She glared back at me, completely holding her own. She was just a toddler and I knew, as the adult, I should let it slide, as I usually did, but on this occasion my anger at her was palpable.
When Colin returned with the groceries, and I told him what had happened, he thought it was hilarious. But I found the whole situation intimidating, infuriating and frankly upsetting. What was I supposed to do with that comment? How could nine words emitted from the mouth of such a small human being carry such weight? And why couldn’t I count on the support of my boyfriend in dealing with his angry little girl. She’d pelted me with an emotional curve ball – but it was just one of many that I endured when I first became a step-parent.
I’m happy to say that now, Colin (who has since become my husband) and I have a lot better relationship with each other’s children – we have six of them between us, including Charlotte. We’re more tolerant and hopefully more understanding. Yes there are still incidents aplenty, but they are quickly resolved and carry less emotional weight. Nevertheless, I still regard these early days as a baptism by fire. Step-parenting is a hard-to-navigate role, and with over half a million step-families in the UK, and a divorce rate at 42 per cent (and counting), it’s a position that many of us find ourselves in. Becoming part of someone else’s ‘unit’ requires an often lengthy period of adjustment – for everyone. And while it took a few years for Charlotte and I to truly find a balance that worked, for many step-parents a feeling of equilibrium and happiness never happens.
I think a lot of it comes from guilt. It’s an emotion that most mothers seem to battle with anyway, but it only intensifies during a break up. When I broke up with my sons’ father, after 13 years together,(he had an affair) I was painfully aware that I was also destroying the secure environment they had come to rely on. Making them feel loved and safe was a priority for me, and we quickly fell into a routine that suited all of us. The boys, who were four months and three years at the time, still lived with me in our family home, and saw their dad at weekends.
Things remained like this for seven years, until I met Colin, who had also separated from his partner. He’d been invited by a mutual friend to join us for supper and I instantly fell for his sense of humour and his kind, gentle nature. Yet I knew creating a home for my boys and his four children would nevertheless prove a challenge.
I was 38 when we met, and Colin’s older kids from his first marriage were already 18, 20 and 21. He had separated from three year-old Charlotte’s mother, before she was born. At first I assumed our relationship would start with lots of indulgent dinners and lazy mornings in bed – particularly when my boys, who still lived with me, were with their dad. I felt like we’d both already done our fair share of baby duty in our lives, so we didn’t need to worry about that anymore, but of course, we were propelled back there every time Charlotte came to visit.
She instantly took priority over the other kids because she simply needed more attention than they did. This may have been easier to swallow if Colin and I at least had similar parenting styles. But Charlotte’s mother had instigated a strict routine – one that she shared with me via a long list of ‘dos and don’ts’ and that my husband was fearful of deviating from – so the weekends we cared for her, everyone had to adhere to a toddler’s timetable. I also found myself tied to another woman’s parenting style – which was completely at odds with my own, far more relaxed, approach. And I realised I was expected to cut short everyone else’s fun to maintain Charlotte’s schedule too.
I remember one occasion when, on a joint family outing, my youngest son became upset because he had been promised a trip to a museum but we had run out of time. Colin’s constant clock watching had already driven me to distraction, but now I had to disregard my own child’s feelings for the sake of Colin’s offspring. It was too hard to ignore my son’s tears, too upsetting that Colin seemed immune to them and too frustrating that yet another ‘happy’ family trip had descended into an argument.
When I’d been a single mother, I’d always assumed embarking on a relationship with a man who had no children would be catastrophic, as how could he ever understand what it was like. Instead, I’d found a partner with kids, and constantly felt undermined and unable to vocalise what I really thought for fear of causing a row.
My relationship with Colin’s three older kids was equally as challenging. At times it felt like we were developing great friendships, but then something would happen and we’d be back to square one again.
Weeks after the museum incident, Colin’s eldest son spotted a bottle of champagne in our fridge and reported this back to his mother. As she and Colin were in the throes of financial negotiations, this information became ammunition. Times were hard for all of us back then and the champagne was a rare treat – purchased by me – but of course, his son didn’t realise this and viewed it as misplaced priorities. I could understand his loyalty to his mum, but I was devastated too. I’d recently helped him to raise a deposit for his first home, and acted as guarantor, but at the first opportunity to unfoot me, he did. In retrospect I realise he was dealing with his emotions by lashing out. I was just the easiest target.
Poor Colin spent a lot of time trying to keep everyone happy, but for me, the fact that he didn’t instantly spring to my defence was yet more evidence that the lines were drawn. It was very much him and his children, and me and mine. Blending had failed. We were not ready to be step parents – being parents was hard enough.
So we went our separate ways, for three years. We remained friends during this time and out of the blue, met for a coffee in 2011. We both had dates lined up for that evening, but decided to ditch them and go out for supper instead. Guess what? We’ve never looked back.
A few weeks later we broke the news of our reconciliation to our children and they were all delighted. It seemed that time not only helped us to heal, but gave us a shared history, something to help the kids feel unified. The first time Charlotte, then six, came back to visit us, she cried because she was worried she would never see us all again. It made me realise that despite what had happened before, my children and I were important to her.
Almost a decade on, I’m able to say that I now love being a stepmother to Colin’s four amazing children. Each one of them has brought a positive, new dimension to my life, and luckily, their mums have both helped to make the situation more harmonious. Their acceptance – and support – of our relationship means that they feel like allies. And actually, they always have done. Even when things were tough for Colin and I, his ex partners never weighed in and made things worse. They were sensitive to the fact that we might need time alone without the kids and they also seemed confident about leaving their children in my care, which made me feel accepted by them too. they seemed just as happy as the kids about our reconciliation.
So how did we do things differently second time around? By being more supportive to one another as a couple and clearer about the roles we’d take on with each other’s children.
In 2013 we got married and our children were ushers, flower girls and bridesmaids. As I stood back and looked at our big, crazy family, I was proud of what we’d become. Now we are more honest, settled and confident. Am I still sometimes seen as the wicked step mother? You would have to ask the kids (I’m still working on being slightly less opinionated!), but so far this fairy tale has a happy ending.

Dating rules! What rules?


I love my job. In fact, I think I probably have the best job in the world.

I can work at home-in a onesie if the mood takes me-and write about things that I really enjoy and have knowledge of. For the purposes of this blog, that ‘thing’ is of course onlinedating,and dating in general, a topic that I have extensive knowledge and plenty of direct experience of, good, bad and ugly. In some cases very bad and extremely ugly.

However, happy as I am to share my dating experiences with everyone, I am finding that quite apart from writing about dating, I have become the person that single friends call on in times of dating crises. Delighted as I am to listen, advise and soothe, I am not entirely sure I ever really provide them with the answers they really need.

For example, the old classic question of ‘how long should I wait until I text him back’ just keeps on cropping up and to be honest with you I am simply not sure what rules actually apply. Over the years, many books have been written about the so-called dating rules, but do they help us shape relationships or potential relationships or do they hinder? Do they hold us back and lead to missed opportunities or protect us from a broken heart?

I have heard single friends of mine refer to the rules many times, and each time I have to question why they are putting so much trust in, and emphasis on, something that has largely been made up!

Personally I think we should throw out the rule book and I have said this many times before. The rules change depending on the book you read anyway, and the so called expert you call on, and I am just of the opinion that life is too short to play games.

If you meet someone, you like them, you get with them and you feel like you want to spend some more time getting to know them then why wait for three days to answer a text?! It is dating madness and potentially relationship suicide. Dating is tough for men and women so don’t make things harder by playing waiting games.

For a start men are scuppered from the word go because whatever they say or do can so easily be wrong or misinterpreted, and as for women if we are too keen they don’t like it and if we are too standoffish then we run the risk of missing out!

I know these are both generalisations, but really my friends just get out there! Go on some dates, if you like each other then arrange to meet again and if you don’t then politely move on.

We are now in the festive season, a time of goodwill to all men (and women) so do yourselves and your dates a favour, be honest, be safe, have fun but don’t waste time tying yourself up in knots trying to play by some made up rules. Just go with the flow and who knows who you might find in your Christmas stocking this year?

Don’t you want me baby?

Don’t you want me baby?

DON’T you want me ohohohoho… as the brilliant Human League song goes, but what DO you do if your dates are not quite going according to plan and you are starting to feel a little unloved and unwanted?
Well for a start my single friends, never do what I did and go down the steep, scary road of self loathing and negativity! Oh I was a dating nightmare. If any of my dates failed to ring, declare undying love or show more than a hint of interest then I was on that slippery path to losing my self confidence and heading for the highway of self destruct!
This is why one of the newest dating sites, is far and away the best way to improve your dating technique and hook up with genuine, honest single people. The brilliant Steve, Anona and Clare (the nerve centre of ) have developed a brilliant and unique feedback system that only you and your date has access to. Although it may sound harsh, the idea is far from that and the system has been designed to help you get better at dating and improve your chances of finding love on line.
You should think of online dating as part of your ongoing personal development, as well as a way to meet new people. It is very rare for people to meet the love of their life within a few minutes of surfing dating sites, and the process can take some time. Instead of feeling impatient and disillusioned, think of your internet dating as a project and part of your bigger life plan. It should still be fun, but if you are serious about finding a partner online then you have to treat the process with some degree of seriousness and be prepared to invest some time and effort in it.
The feedback system gives you the chance to rate your date, thereby offering people a genuine chance to make improvements, if necessary, and also giving the odd ego boost as well which is never a bad thing!
It is not designed to aid character assassination or for you to be deliberately unkind about other singletons, the idea is that you support each other in your dating endeavours! You cannot please everyone, and it is unrealistic to think that everyone you meet on line will instantly fall for you, but by taking part in the feedback system you can truly improve your chances by taking comments in the spirit in which they are intended, instead of plunging into despair!

Happy dating!


Take the plunge!


Take a plunge and create that perfect profile!

AT HQ we are all a quiver with the sheer excitement of the launch of the amazing NEW way to date on line!

We all know it is a bit scary out there in cyber space, who knows who you might bump into (or what!!!) but our lovely new website is the perfect way to start your internet dating career, as well as a fresh start for anyone who has tried it before.

There are loads of useful tips and bits of advice on the site to help you create a really brilliant profile.

Having a killer photo is the first step as it is really important for any potential dates to see your lovely little face beaming out at them from the screen!

Our dating site is all about the H word! HONESTY! So although it might be tempting to upload a photo that is ten years old, or of your younger sister, do not give in to this terrible temptation! Everyone is beautiful after all, and we are ALL different so get a good friend to take a few nice shots so that you can choose your favourite and get it out there!

When it comes to writing your profile you might want to enlist the support of that good friend to lend a hand because writing about ourselves is really hard! Remember that once you write something about yourself it is OUT there so choose your words carefully and think hard about what you want to reveal…save a bit of info for when you meet your date!

There are lots of great tips elsewhere on the website, but just as a little reminder here are our top five:

Be honest, open and clear
Saying that you like to go out and stay in just makes you sound, well, normal! Instead be a bit creative and give some detail about what you really like to do
Keep it lively and chatty, remember this is your shop window to the world of internet dating!
Don’t moan!
Don’t talk about your ex or go on endlessly about your children. I am sure you DO have adorable kids but this is about YOU not them!
Have fun! This is your time to shine! 

Hope to hear from you soon!

Sarah x

Are you HONESTLY dating?


HAVE you promised yourself that 2014 will be the year when you find love online? Have you tried dozens of dating sites only to end up disappointed, dejected and disillusioned? Well a brand new dating website launches this month that is guaranteed to blow away those January blues! is a brand new dating experience that offers a fresh and unique approach to finding love on line. To celebrate its launch, there are 500 FREE  memberships up for grabs.

The business is owned by best friends Anona Hessler and Clare Beaney, and mum of two Clare has a wealth of experience of internet dating. She met the love of her life online, only to have him snatched away from her following a tragic accident. Clare, 40, said: “I know that it IS possible to find love on line because I did! Lots of people criticise dating sites because people use out of date photos and embellish their profiles with loads of stuff that isn’t true! This is why we have launched Our approach is totally different to other sites, we encourage members to be brutally honest and really buy in to our concept of being transparent, truthful and totally honest about who they are and what they are looking for.”

The site differs from others because as well as encouraging honesty, it has a unique feedback system that is not available on other sites.

Anona, 42, who is married with three children added: “We know that we are operating in a highly competitive market and that we needed to offer something much better to our members. Looking for love online is serious, we are offering a service that can change people’s lives and it is vital that we offer really good value and a quality service. Our feedback system gives members the chance to rate their date. We hope that this will really reinforce the need for honesty and help people with confidence, personal development and to make some positive changes to their approach to dating.”

It has been reported that some dating sites may buy databases of details to boost their membership and give the impression that the site has tens of thousands of members.

Anona added: “Everyone knows that this can be common practice, but there is nothing worse than visiting a site, seeing loads of photos of available, attractive people and then parting with your hard earned cash, only to find that the profile you were interested in was fake. We don’t work like that! We only want REAL people on our site and that is why we are offering hundreds of free memberships to launch the site.”

To be in with a chance of winning a free membership, all you have to do is follow@honestlydate on Twitter or visit the Honestly Dating Facebook page and like us.


Note to editors. For photos, interviews and more information, please contact Sarah Edwards