December 2014 archive

Emails to Henry VIII, from his Relate Relationship Counsellor

| Uncategorized


Email sent to:

Your Majesty,

Thank you for your recent email detailing the issues you are having in your relationship. Reaching out is the first step to making a difference in your marriage. My apologies for the slight delay, it took me a while to put the Latin through Google translate.

Every relationship is unique, but I accept marrying your dead brother’s wife at the behest of your dying father in a bid to dynastically link England and Spain does create a certain amount of tension. How were family gatherings? As you say, your wife is six years your senior, and you feel she may have misled you about her level of sexual experience. Any anxiety about living up to the sexual performance of one’s older brother may limit your own levels of satisfaction, but why do you think this has led you to question the holy validity of your union? Seeking an annulment feels like a knee jerk response.

I also find it interesting you say you have acted as a good pious husband by only having three mistresses. You say your wife does not object, but you still seem disappointed in her. Have you considered this may be about your mother? It would be useful to talk to you and your wife together, but I appreciate this does not fit with Catherine of Aragon’s schedule since she’s currently banished from court.

At root I feel you’re not being honest with yourself about the real reasons you’re considering ending this relationship. Do let me know if you would like to talk further.

Kind regards,


Email to:

Your Grace,

Congratulations on your recent marriage to Anne Boleyn – and I’m sorry to hear it is already in difficulty. You write that Anne’s vivacity and intellect appealed to you during your courtship, but she now refuses to play the submissive wife. Have you spent much time in the American Bible belt?

You say there are no problems in the bedroom chamber, which is promising. But can you clarify what you meant by “that naughty thing she learnt to do in the French court”, and just how you feel she used that to trick you into marriage? I don’t understand what you mean by “wasting the divine king’s seed”. Have you been arguing about the Hampton Court Palace gardens?

I’m alarmed at your suspicions your wife may have had carnal relations with her brother. I can refer you to a therapist who specialises in incest if you wish? You also allege she is a practiser of witchcraft. These sound like extraordinary accusations. Is it possible something else is going on? I do not think your former wife Catherine of Aragon dying on the same day as Anne miscarried your child is concrete proof you have “pissed off god”. It seems to me you are dealing with many layers of emotion and may benefit from some form of anger management strategy. Have you considered Mindfulness, or jousting?

Do let me know if you would like to talk further.


Email to:

Your Excellency,

I was sorry to learn of the loss of your wife Jane Seymour, less than a year after the unfortunate decapitation accident that saw you lose your previous wife Anne. How much can one man take, indeed? I want to reassure you you are not the master of your own misfortune, though, obviously, you are the master of everything else. Nor are you being punished for, as you put it, the “whole religion thing”. Grief is a complex emotion. You say Jane was young and beautiful, and you married just ten days after Anne’s accident. Do you think you rebounded in a bid to assuage your heartache?

You also write of your close friend Thomas Cromwell’s warnings of threats both at home and abroad. Is it possible he has an ulterior motive? You say you have declared two of your children as illegitimate. Are you feeling any anxiety or paranoia? I would counsel against you taking any rash decisions during a time of emotional turmoil, they may have long lasting repercussions. Thinking about other more pleasant things may be helpful. Have you thought about joining an evening class or taking up a hobby? I hear invading France is very popular at this time of year.

I’m always happy to listen.


Email to:

Dear HRH,

I am sorry to learn your most recent marriage to Anne of Cleves has not worked out. I can see how publically calling her a ‘Flanders Mare’, ruined any chance of reconciliation. Though these posh girls are often horsey, I agree. I’m pleased that aside from this, you seem to have separated amicably. But I am concerned by the official title you have bestowed on your ex-wife. Calling her the ‘The King’s Sister’ returns us to the subject of incest. You seem somewhat fixated on inappropriate family members having sex – have you read much Freud?

And may I say how sorry I was to hear your friend Thomas Cromwell also passed away in a decapitation accident. Have you thought about introducing some Health & Safety legislation?

I’m always here to listen.


P.S. Thank you for the Youtube video of you playing Green Sleeves on the ukulele. It is indeed very catchy.

Email to:

Dear Henry,

I’m sorry to hear your recent partnership with Catherine Howard has come to an end. It must be hard to deal with the rejection of her having not one but two affairs behind your back. As you say, it’s not like she’s the man in the relationship and is allowed to behave like that. Silly girl: I can only assume she lost her head.

Do not feel downhearted. I know you can find true happiness; you just need to meet the right woman. Someone who is independently wealthy, say. Educated, perhaps with previous relationship experience to draw on, and, crucially, not likely to shag half of court. If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try, try, try, and try again. Have you considered Tindr? That Holbein painting of you with the hipster ginger beard would definitely have the single ladies-in-waiting swiping right.



Email to:

Hey Big-Spender,

What a delight to finally meet in person. I don’t think your paintings do you justice. I like a meaty man: someone strong and powerful to look after me. And I think gout is a sign of refined and cultured taste. And no, the pus oozing sores didn’t bother me at all. I barely noticed them. Or the smell.

I confess I have been lonely since my husband passed away, and the chance of a new relationship has come as a pleasant surprise. Before we progress though, I think we should talk about Mary. And Elizabeth. I know things didn’t end well with their mothers, but they are still your children. Through my work with relationship counselling I’ve come to highly value the family unit. I think you should welcome them back into the fold. Such spirited girls. Elizabeth, in particular, could go far. And it’ll even up the numbers of women at the swan-eating feasts.

I look forward to taking our relationship public, but I feel it’s best we use my full name at functions. Catherine Parr sounds much more regal than Kate, don’t you think?

Yours until the day you die,



I first wrote and read emails to Henry VIII from his Relate relationship counsellor for Daisy letters of notBuchanan and Dale Shaw’s We Could Send Letters night – inspired by Dale’s fabulously funny book Letters of Not. Do follow them on Twitter to find out when the next night will be. There was nibbles.

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Can You Be a Writer and NOT Suffer From Anxiety?

| Playwriting, Uncategorized, Writing


I have found another similarity between writing a book and writing a play: the fear. I’ve reached the part in the process where I lose all faith in my words. I’m convinced everything I’ve written is utter crap. The play will fail. Everyone will hate it. It’s not good enough. What am I putting the poor actors and director through? Now I’m not only gambling with my reputation I’m gambling with theirs.

Most writers I know are anxious. It varies on a scale from distractedly chewing their nails, to those using tools like Mindfullness, medication, or having counselling to help. I myself have explored pretty much every step on that scale. Including that old favourite: wine. Of course you can suffer from anxiety and not be a writer, but I often ask myself (Carrie Bradshaw voice): can you be a writer and not suffer from anxiety?

Write what you know is the oft used tip. If you wish to write a novel set in 18th century St Petersburg then research the city, the era, the clothing, the language, everything: then you will write what you know. You will get it right. In the same way, you can’t write about a broken heart without knowing what a broken heart feels like. You have to draw on the part of you that suffered to make it convincing – even if it’s transferring that emotion to another’s story.

Writers are constantly rooting around in the dark places. Opening old wounds so they can feel the pain, the grief, the despair and, of course, the joy. Simply to drop those feelings into 18th century St Petersburg, like you would an architecture reference or a popular food. It’s hard to turn that off at the end of the day. I see the exhaustion in the actors’ faces when they’ve tapped into that same shadowy place, and I recognise it. It’s like a collapse. Inwards. They’re spent.

In order to write successfully you must make people feel. Of course writers are anxious: we never let our wounds fully heal over. We’re always picking at them. Anxiety and writing go hand in hand.

Will people like my play? Will the audience feel the emotion? I don’t know. But I know I need that fear, that anxiety to keep writing. Without it the words are empty and meaningless.


You can find out more about my debut play The Legacy, including how to attend rehearsed readings on the 16th & 17th December at the Tristan Bates Theatre, WC1 here.

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The Wharf: The Sex Toy for Bankers

| Journalism

leloSomeone has designed a sex toy for bankers. Because of course they have. This gave cause for me to email my Wharf editor the legendary question: ‘Can I write about a cock ring?’ The answer was: ‘Yes, as long as you don’t call it a cock ring.’ You can read the full article on the link below:

And here’s the frankly amazing advert for the product. Just about safe for work, but not safe for your soul:


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What’s it like writing a play? Rehearsal time!

| Playwriting


When opportunity knocks, fling the door wide open, kiss it on both cheeks and invite it in for a drink or two. Or three. So: I wrote a play.

I had an idea. A conflict. A detonating moment. Like writing a book, or telling a joke in the pub – the currency of storytelling is accepted across the globe. Across all mediums. And to a point that’s true. And then you have to think of who the audience will be. Where the audience will be. Reading a book in bed? Sitting in a cinema? On a night out with friends at the theatre? And then you have to learn.

I took a playwriting course at speed and under the influence of coffee and fear. Fear is a great motivator. And then I had it. This play. This one act. This story about three people and a mattress. And that’s where it got interesting.

Listening, with the director, to an initial read by the actors was both terrifying and electrifying. Would they like it? Would they hate it? Would they write everything off as a pile of crap?

They laughed.

In the right places. I exhaled. I hadn’t realised I was holding my breath. Then they laughed so hard I worried I’d really screwed up. Done something so stupid they couldn’t stop giggling. Something ridiculous, like using the wrong punctuation to indicate a pause. Well, actually, I had done that. But they said they weren’t chuckling at that. Hopefully they weren’t ‘acting’ about the whole ellipses thing…

I was welcomed to the rehearsals by my director. It’s an incredible thing to see the words you’ve written brought to life. To see a section played one way and then the same section played another way was mind-blowing. I didn’t know you could do that to words: to make them sing, and laugh, and cry. To build into them a resonance, a significance, a history that was far beyond my one imagined scene.

I’ve always thought acting was a physically challenging career, but I have a new understanding now of what it takes. What they give. And right there with them, breathing every breath, feeling every emotion, is the director who somehow manages to know both where they’ve come from and where they’re going to. It’s close to magic. And you feel it: the raw emotion. I know those words, I know what they’re going to say, but it doesn’t matter: each time is like a punch.

And I promise tomorrow I won’t dash across set and hug one of the characters to comfort them. They don’t like it when you do that. 



You can find out more about my debut play The Legacy, including how to attend rehearsed readings on the 16th & 17th December at the Tristan Bates Theatre, WC1 here.

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