"Yesterday was Valentine Day which Sheila and I spent in each other's company all day and night. We began by attending the Ash Wednesday service at church and then had a marvellous lunch at the 'Wagon and Horses', Oxenhope. In the afternoon we went shopping to see the new televisions on sale and when we got home, we played around a little and had an enjoyable night in front of an open fire watching a superb television production of Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Wives and Daughters'. It was a good day all round and it got me thinking what my life had been like before Sheila came into it in December 2010 and started to tame me of my wild ways.
Little did I know when I was a young cub on the cusp of freedom that I was was in effect a lion at rest. I was fearless of the outcome of all I undertook and dreamed that I was one of those very few people on earth who would one day make it spin a bit more peaceably on an axis of love. Having had a good Catholic upbringing didn't stop me being a bit of a wild one and a wanderer until my early twenties.
During my teens, I was always into one kind of trouble or another; usually through fighting or being too light-fingered with goods that didn't belong to me. I was always one for the young women, and being both cocky and with reasonably good looks and enough confidence to sink the Titanic, I was never stuck for attractive female company whenever I chose not to be with the lads.
At the age of 21 years, I emigrated to Canada. This was a time in life when young men who weren't married usually pushed out the boat into new waters before settling down to a more settled existence. Some might move out of their parent's house and set up independently in their own rented flat. Some would join the Army and have a few years of adventure in foreign climates; while those who found it difficult to find a girl might become a Butlin's Red Coat in the hope that changing the colour of their coat would change their luck.
A first love romance in Toronto knocked me off my bachelor bearings and I returned to England when we agreed to split up. Upon my return to England, I decided to settle down and became a textile foreman, followed by a mill manager, then a probation officer. I became engaged and after a five-year period, I got married.
Despite the long engagement though, the woman I married didn't turn out to be the wife and mother to my children that I thought she would be before we wed, and after seven years of trying to make it work, she expressed her wish to end our union. I resisted a separation for another six years, having married for life, but throughout this period she did everything possible to end our marriage. So I gave her the modern three bedroomed matrimonial abode (no mortgage to pay), and it was agreed that I would take custody of our two children as I'd effectively been both father and mother to them since their birth. She agreed, but no sooner than I'd signed over the house and joint bank savings, she reneged on out agreement, divorced me and refused to allow me any contact with our two children for two years, despite an Order of Court threatening her with imprisonment if she didn't allow me weekly access.
My mistaken first marriage seemed to sap the strength of this Samson and for over a decade my mane became mangy. Being unable to make the woman I had married happy, whatever I did, I took all the misspent love I'd given her and instead lavished it on the two children of my marriage in abundance after I eventually got access to them.
It was during this period of exile from my sons James and Adam that I found new love and I began a period of my life which went from strength to strength, both in my personal and professional life. I became a successful children's writer and raised over £200,000 for charity through the profits on the sales from my books. On the work front, I became one of the foremost Relaxation Trainers in the country and I also founded Anger Management, a discipline which mushroomed across the English-speaking world within a matter of the following two years. I also brought Relaxation programmes into prisons, hospitals, educational establishments, probation offices and community halls.
Over the following twenty-eight years my mane regrew ever more magnificent than before and three more children came into my life, William and Rebecca, and my stepson Matthew. My second marriage was good, but after the children had grown and left home, my wife decided that our relationship had also run its course and expressed her wish to end our union. We parted amicably and have remained on friendly terms ever since, enjoined in parental responsibility until we die by the mutual love of the children we parented.
Neither of my marriages was ended by me and I would have gladly served out my time in each had I been given the opportunity to complete my life sentence. Having been dumped twice by the woman in my life, I made the decision not to be dumped again! Determined to have no more marriages behind me, and being retired from work with both the means and money to travel, over the next couple of years I roamed the country far and wide looking more for a temporary 'playmate' as opposed to a lifelong 'soul mate'. I changed my lady acquaintances as often as I changed my bed sheets (approximately weekly). With two marriages behind me, one broken and the second lasting well past its 'sell by date' (twenty-nine years), any thoughts of a third wife represented a more distant possibility to me than joining the Liberal Party.
Over the next few years, my life seemed filled with lust expended in ratio to miles travelled and I eventually started to become bored with the transient relationships experienced in the overnight stops between Lands End and John O'Groats. Just when I'd resigned myself to the remainder of my life as a bachelor, I came across my lioness, Sheila, whom I found in the long grass and among the heather on Haworth Moor looking for rich pickings. It was her combing of my mane again, her massaging of my ego, her stirring of my loins and the shining of her angelic halo upon the reflective goodness in my soul which made me the magnificent beast who stands before you once more.
Only she could see the beauty in this old lion who was about to fall asleep, and she breathed new life into me. Sheila did the opposite that Delilah did to Samson. Instead of sapping my strength and making me weak in the process, she made me stronger and stronger by feeding me on the finest food I've ever eaten. She also provided me with a spiritual dimension to our love, as well as a physical and emotional dimension to our relationship.
Sheila pricked my snoring pride and prodded me back into a mighty roar. It was only she who dared to wake up the sleeping lion and the passion inside me once more. She made me want to love again; she made me want to sing again. I love you wildly my Monkey of the Chinese Year, my earthly angel, my eternal Valentine xxxxx." William Forde: February 15th, 2018