Steamy secrets of my grandparents’ private letters

After Chris and Bessie’s deaths, Irena Barker’s family opened a box of 500 love letters written while the second world war kept them apart. The couple held little back as they expressed their longing

Like many of their generation, my grandparents, Bessie and Christopher Barker, had a sparse and puritanical approach to life. They sipped a glass of sherry only if there was something truly worth celebrating. They preferred to mend things with vast rolls of parcel tape, blobs of Blu-Tack and strips of leather rather than buying anything new. Letters, postcards, string and buttons were ordered and hoarded for such time as they might come in useful.

As a child in the 1980s, I adored the great throne of their 1930s pull-flush toilet with its enormous white wooden seat. My mother expressed disgust at the unmodernised bathroom with its curious plastic bottles full of holes, filled with scraps of soap.

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After Chris and Bessie’s deaths, Irena Barker’s family opened a box of 500 love letters written while the second world war kept them apart. The couple held little back as they expressed their longing

Like many of their generation, my grandparents, Bessie and Christopher Barker, had a sparse and puritanical approach to life. They sipped a glass of sherry only if there was something truly worth celebrating. They preferred to mend things with vast rolls of parcel tape, blobs of Blu-Tack and strips of leather rather than buying anything new. Letters, postcards, string and buttons were ordered and hoarded for such time as they might come in useful.

As a child in the 1980s, I adored the great throne of their 1930s pull-flush toilet with its enormous white wooden seat. My mother expressed disgust at the unmodernised bathroom with its curious plastic bottles full of holes, filled with scraps of soap.

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Why are older men looking at women half their age?

It’s disheartening that men in their 50s seem so focused on looks

It’s been a week of gloomy thoughts about what one applicant called “the packaging”. In fact, he wasn’t an applicant. He wrote specifically to tell me he wasn’t. “It’s a shame I don’t fancy you,” he said, “because otherwise you tick all the boxes.” Another said I sounded nice, but added: “Though unfortunately I have stringent physical criteria.”

There seems to be a gender imbalance, vis-a-vis the packaging thing. All the women I know are tolerant of middle age showing itself in a chap. We quite like a late flowering, in fact: the silvering, the smile lines, the coming of bodily sturdiness. We read these as signs that life has been lived and enjoyed. We read them as indicators of substance, of being substantial. In general, men don’t seem to grant us the same courtesy, at least not the men I meet online. They are highly focused on the packaging. It’s disheartening.

Continue reading…

It’s disheartening that men in their 50s seem so focused on looks

It’s been a week of gloomy thoughts about what one applicant called “the packaging”. In fact, he wasn’t an applicant. He wrote specifically to tell me he wasn’t. “It’s a shame I don’t fancy you,” he said, “because otherwise you tick all the boxes.” Another said I sounded nice, but added: “Though unfortunately I have stringent physical criteria.”

There seems to be a gender imbalance, vis-a-vis the packaging thing. All the women I know are tolerant of middle age showing itself in a chap. We quite like a late flowering, in fact: the silvering, the smile lines, the coming of bodily sturdiness. We read these as signs that life has been lived and enjoyed. We read them as indicators of substance, of being substantial. In general, men don’t seem to grant us the same courtesy, at least not the men I meet online. They are highly focused on the packaging. It’s disheartening.

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Experience: I’ve slept with 3,000 men

‘I am actually married. But neither of us puts sex on a pedestal. We see it for what it is: separate from love’

It was the night I slept with 14 men that I first started to try to work out how many partners I’ve been with. The truth is, I’m not sure. My conservative estimate is about 100 guys a year for more than three decades. I’m 63 now and I’ve slowed down a little – but only a little. Why do I do it? Having sex isn’t something I do for a living, but it is my passion. It’s the most enjoyable, exhilarating, satisfying way to spend your time. Some women like yoga, some like badminton. I like carnality.

I am actually married. Barry and I have been together since I was 15 – we wed when I was 19, have two grandchildren, and he’s my world. But neither of us puts sex on a pedestal. We see it for what it is: separate from love. It’s not natural to stick with one sexual partner for 60 years. Life is about experimenting and experiencing, and that’s what we do. Barry goes with other women. I don’t get jealous because I know he loves me. Until the age of 28, I’d only been with him and we had a terrific sex life, but one day he brought home a swingers’ magazine he’d picked up from a workmate. He sort of joked we should try it; I told him not to be daft, and he never mentioned it again.

The night I slept with 14 men was at a swingers’ party. I remember driving there feeling almost uncontrollably lustful.

Related: I fantasise about group sex with old, obese men

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‘I am actually married. But neither of us puts sex on a pedestal. We see it for what it is: separate from love’

It was the night I slept with 14 men that I first started to try to work out how many partners I’ve been with. The truth is, I’m not sure. My conservative estimate is about 100 guys a year for more than three decades. I’m 63 now and I’ve slowed down a little – but only a little. Why do I do it? Having sex isn’t something I do for a living, but it is my passion. It’s the most enjoyable, exhilarating, satisfying way to spend your time. Some women like yoga, some like badminton. I like carnality.

I am actually married. Barry and I have been together since I was 15 – we wed when I was 19, have two grandchildren, and he’s my world. But neither of us puts sex on a pedestal. We see it for what it is: separate from love. It’s not natural to stick with one sexual partner for 60 years. Life is about experimenting and experiencing, and that’s what we do. Barry goes with other women. I don’t get jealous because I know he loves me. Until the age of 28, I’d only been with him and we had a terrific sex life, but one day he brought home a swingers’ magazine he’d picked up from a workmate. He sort of joked we should try it; I told him not to be daft, and he never mentioned it again.

The night I slept with 14 men was at a swingers’ party. I remember driving there feeling almost uncontrollably lustful.

Related: I fantasise about group sex with old, obese men

Continue reading…

Still crazy in love: happy couples together for over 50 years – in pictures

When Lauren Fleishman discovered her grandfather’s early love letters to her grandmother, she was moved to find and photograph couples who have been together more than half a century. In her new photobook, The Lovers, they share their stories of lifelong success

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When Lauren Fleishman discovered her grandfather’s early love letters to her grandmother, she was moved to find and photograph couples who have been together more than half a century. In her new photobook, The Lovers, they share their stories of lifelong success

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Inside the world’s biggest dating agency

It started out as the pet project of a cryogenics enthusiast and grew into the granddaddy of a billion dollar industry. Sarah Rainey visits Match.com to find out what the 20-year-old online dating behemoth has learned about love.

It started out as the pet project of a cryogenics enthusiast and grew into the granddaddy of a billion dollar industry. Sarah Rainey visits Match.com to find out what the 20-year-old online dating behemoth has learned about love.