‘I interviewed an 80-year-old sex blogger who had some wonderful pieces of advice!’
PUBLISHED: 16:00 19 February 2020
What happens after you say ‘I do’? It’s the question journalists Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson, AKA Mother Pukka and Papa Pukka, ask in their new book Where’s My Happy Ending? We caught up with the Instagram stars as they discussed what they discovered with a sell-out audience at Jarrold in Norwich.
This is the second book which you have written together - how does the dynamic between you work on a project like this?
Matt: "This book has a similar format to the last one in that we each wrote one half of every chapter, and didn't read what the other had written until just before we started the final chapter. We felt we needed to be as honest as possible with each other and with the page, and if we were checking each other's stuff as we went, we would end up editing ourselves. When we finally read what we'd written, we realised there were so many things we'd misunderstood about each other, which was a real revelation for us both. For this book, we agreed the subject area together - there are chapters on what kids do to marriages, sex, porn, social media, smart phones, family backgrounds and various other things. We then independently investigated these topics in our own way, speaking to totally different people along the way. We learnt a lot about ourselves through this process, and hope that our readers will do the same."
It's great that you're back in Norwich. Do you know the city and Norfolk at all?
Anna: "We have a few friends who live in the city so we've visited a few times - it's a beautiful place. Getting out on to the Broads and seeing the expanding horizon is really uplifting - especially when our everyday views are of terraced houses and wheelie bins."
In the book you speak to a broad mix of people about their views on love. Were there any interviewees which surprised you in particular and why? And did anything they told you put a new perspective on your own relationship?
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Anna: "I interviewed an 80-year-old sex blogger who had some wonderful pieces of advice - mostly to do with not putting too much pressure on your knees. She said that we, as a couple with two small kids and all the pressures of work and life, are at the toughest stage of a relationship, but 'whatever you do, please cling on my lovelies, because there is another side'. Whether you've found 'the one', or you've just been on a first date, maybe you've decided you don't ever want to be with anyone or that what you really need is an elaborate fleet of lifelong lovers, the idea is that you come away with a sense of hope for the future, knowing that there is no happily ever after unless you make it for yourself."
Matt: "One of the marriage therapists I spoke to said that the biggest reason we fail is because we have such unrealistic expectations. We have all these phrases about love; love will find a way, love is the key, love is enough etc, but actually it's not - it's needs work and effort and people forget that. They assume it will happen naturally and you'll just 'know' that it's right and there won't be any issues. The therapist also told me that lots of people get in touch with him saying their marriage is in the toilet and everything is going wrong, so he'd look at their profiles and often their pictures would all be of just their kids, or just them with their kids - none of their spouse. People tend to prioritise everyone else outside of the marriage. They put their children on a pedestal and ultimately neglect the person they're raising those kids with, which can be very hard for the other person. He said actually, you shouldn't worship your children, you should worship the person you've chosen to spend your life with because they will (hopefully) be with you long after the kids have left home."
You've spearheaded the Flex Appeal, a campaign for flexible working for all which was recently addressed in parliament - how do you feel when you reflect on how far it has come? And what is next for your campaign?
Anna: "The main thing we feel is a duty to continue. When we first started talking about this four years ago, the thing that really inspired us to keep going was hearing all the stories from people who had been affected by it. People who had the confidence to put in a flexible working request and got it, and the positive impact it had on their life, to the people who decided they were going to try it with their staff. There's still a long way to go, but we feel hopeful that in 10 or even five years' time, we will be in a place where people aren't rigidly tied to the nine to five and can work in ways that allows them to have a family and a career (if that's what they want), but also allows people to look after elderly relatives, care for people in need or simply just live better, happier and more fulfilled lives."
What's next for Mother Pukka and Papa Pukka?
Anna: "We have a few ideas bubbling away for books and other projects, but we are working on adjusting our working lives a little bit, because the slight irony of all of this is that we don't feel we're actually getting enough time with our kids at the moment. So we need to rebalance things and practice what we preach. That said, we will continue to bang the drum for flexible working, and I now have my own Sunday night radio show on Heart FM, which is something I've been working towards for a long time and love to pieces."
Where's My Happy Ending, by Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson is out now.