Alison Goulding: Dear Alison....

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STEP forward, Guilty Pleasure Number 149 – behold, the Agony Aunt!

Who knew life’s problems were solvable in no more than 500 words?

And that each maven of knowledge could take such a unique approach to these thorny problems endured by our population?

It’s a buffet of commonsense with a salad bar of sympathy.

I think Denise Robertson is my favourite.

“If I had a pound for every boy who’s written to me saying he feels he’s being forced into sex by his girlfriend, I’d be in the Bahamas now”, she said in a recent interview with the Echo.

Denise, I know exactly what you mean.

Pamela Stephenson is good for minimalists. She never writes more than two paragraphs and the answer is always one of two options. Either: “you’re fine” or “you’re not, go and see a therapist.”

Bel Mooney is for days when you’re feeling hysterical. Her answers are really long and she always sides with the scorned woman (there are a lot of scorned women on problem pages. You can’t move for them).

While Mariella Frostrup falls into the trap of just writing about her own life – top marks for byline photo though.

Over the years I have penned no less than three requests for advice from strangers, with mixed success.

I once emailed Mrs Advice at a national newspaper about an errant (ex) boyfriend but am still waiting for a reply, several years after the fact.

Not only did she not solve my problem, she also gave me a new one, namely – what do you do when the agony aunt doesn’t reply?

Next I consulted the powers of eight-year-old problem solver Evie Hobsbawm, who I again found in a newspaper, in an article touting her powers as a remarkable advice dispenser even at such a fledgling age.

I asked her what I should do about my naughty horse. This was the reply.

“Thank you so much for your interest in Eve’s problem solving website.

“We’ve had a lot of unexpected interest from the press and we’re now worried that all this press might not be the best thing for Eve.

“So I’d rather she not add anything more at this time. Maybe when she gets a little older we will feel that she will have the maturity to handle it. All the best, Eve’s mum’

It felt a bit crushing to get a reply from the oracle’s mother, but hey ho.

All was not lost though, my most recent request met with a response! I emailed my favourite blogger about an ethical dilemna and she said she always approached these things thinking about what’s right for her and that generally seemed to work, even if it sounded a bit selfish.

I loved her reply, because it really cuts to the heart of all problems and all subsequent advice.

Namely, that we don’t really want advice. We want people to give us permission to go off and do whatever we want.

And until then our problems wrap around us like a warm, distracting duvet, like bacon around a sausage. See? We’re all miniature pigs in blankets!

With wisdom like that ... Aunty Alison does have a certain ring to it.