Bel Mooney has been the nation's shoulder to cry on for more than a decade. We chatted to the wisdom-giving wonder woman...
My advice column appears every Saturday in the Daily Mail, over two pages, with a potential readership of around six million. It consists of two letters, a very personal side column called “And Finally”, which readers love, and a top quotation – a thought for the week. I choose very carefully to be uplifting and/or thought-provoking.
I began with The Times in 2005, and moved to the Mail two years later, so 12 years in all.
I turned 70 last October – which is an important event. I celebrated another step in the accumulation of life experience and, I hope, wisdom!
I regard my whole life story as “qualification” enough – having experienced bereavement; family problems in childhood and then later too; nursing a sick child; acute disappointments in my career, marital difficulties ending in divorce; and rebuilding and re-marriage and reinvention. Having said that, I also did a short couples counselling course with the Tavistock Institute, and greatly enjoyed five day-courses with the excellent Human Givens organisation, focusing on issues relevant to my column. A third factor is my deep love of literature. All the books, poems and plays I have read I count as “training”, since the whole human spirit is there.
Sandra Parsons, then features editor at The Times, suddenly had a lightbulb moment – that I could write a very personal, “literary” and wide-ranging advice column. I was unsure at first, but quickly realised this is my vocation.
I work at home, so it’s always here. But I used to find the invisible presence of so much unhappiness under my roof disconcerting and sometimes depressing.
More women than men – although I do get very interesting letters from men, and love to use them.
Not really. I do notice that other advice columnists tend to shy away from bereavement, but that is one of my chosen subjects. Many years ago, I received an award from Cruse Bereavement Care for writing about the subject. The problems I find most upsetting concern toxic family problems and grandparents not allowed to see their grandchildren. As a grandmother, I can’t bear to read of their sorrow.
No, they don’t. Unhappy relationships and bad marriages abound, although more men complain about not getting enough sex. To be frank, that’s not a subject I enjoy very much – because what can you say? Bereavement, loss and the point of life itself – those have no gender.
In my 12 years, the subjects have been constant – and there’s been no increase in problems in relationships due to porn addiction, which I find rather surprising.
So much! My postbag brings proof of petty conflict, but also proof of the saving power of human love.