IS IT fair or unfair that women who are temporarily hampered by their period should be unable to say so publicly?

The prevailing school of thought says women who complain that they are suffering cramps, headaches and general fatigue once a month are letting the female side down.

That mindset gives men the perfect excuse to claim women are “weaker” and shouldn’t be trusted with positions of power, driving the car or even crossing the road unaided.

Women suffer in silence so that they won’t be perceived as different in any way to men.

But thank goodness for the tennis player Heather Watson, who recently had to sit down in the middle of a match and tell the world she was suffering from “girl things”.

It was a breakthrough in the silence that has surrounded public discussion of periods, perfectly summed up by fellow tennis player Martina Navratilova, who said: “It sounds like an excuse, but it isn’t.”

Martina admitted that during her long career she never talked about it, but it was there, and sometimes made the difference between winning or losing a Grand Slam title.

For most of us, the stakes aren’t quite so high. But nevertheless periods play a huge part in any woman’s life and it’s time it was made public.

Throughout my teens, I was plagued by horrific symptoms every month.

When I was at school, one of my parents would have to leave work to collect me from school because I was in agony, my mother putting me to bed with a hot water bottle after making me tea with a big slug of whisky or brandy and a couple of painkillers.

Probably a bad combination but nothing less would take the edge off. She knew what it was like from experience: she used to faint with the pain.

I recall a horrific day at work when I was about 19. The boss of the newspaper company I worked for was visiting our office and called me in to offer me a promotion and pay rise.

Unfortunately, my period had started about an hour earlier and the cramps that gripped me were so violent I thought I would collapse in front of him.

When I emerged, my colleagues told me I looked as white as a sheet and I had leave shortly afterwards to contain my pain at home.

For the benefit of male readers, I will describe the pain some women, including me, suffer on a regular basis.

My mother has told me the cramps are like labour pains (although I’m a mother of three, I had to have three Caesareans so I have never been in labour) and the pain can reverberate through the lower back and even down the legs.

The cramps come in waves and reach a crescendo that can make you scream out. In addition, there can be nausea, many women actually throwing up, and also diarrhoea.

And it’s not confined to just one day: it can affect some women for several days.

Heavy bleeding can leave some women anaemic too, and it’s deeply inconvenient to have to deal with pads and tampons.

And then, of course, leading up to the actual start of a period is the PMT: a week or so of brain fog, lack of coordination, feelings of depression and paranoia, the constant urge to eat carbohydrates and chocolate, and water retention that makes you feel like a whale.

Of course, not every woman has every symptom or has sympathy with women who do suffer bad periods.

For any woman who sails through her periods every month with barely a cramp, it’s hard to understand what really bad ones can feel like, and the same with men: how can we expect them to understand and sympathise?

The answer is: we need to tell them. We need to talk about it more.

Most men have women in their lives and once boys have reached a certain age, it shouldn’t be that difficult to start a conversation alerting them to the fact that their sister, mother, aunt, cousin, grandmother, female school friends and even their female teachers will experience this normal monthly event and that some of them may suffer badly.

It should be discussed more in schools too.

After all, periods are a perfectly normal part of life for teenage girls and pre-menopausal women. It’s time to make talking about them perfectly normal too.

It's not shady really

Are you going to see Fifty Shades of Grey?

I’m thinking of texting my friends to see if they fancy a middle-aged women’s night out at the cinema followed by a (probably) rowdy meal out to review it. Or is that a bit sad?

Well, I don’t care. It’s the most talked-about movie of the year and I don’t want to miss out. So I’ll get texting... and I’ll report back to you afterwards.

If you’ve already booked tickets to see it, let me know what you think too.

Education is not a political football

As year 11 pupils prepare themselves for their GCSE exams in May and June, I would like to see a stop to all the changes politicians are allowed to make to the education system.

It seems politicians treat education as some kind of political football to be kicked about as they see fit, moving the goalposts as frequently as they change office.

But messing about with the curriculum messes about with children’s lives, causing a great deal of disruption and stress, particularly when changes come in the middle of the two-year GCSE course.

Is it too much to ask for politicians and teachers to reach a consensus on a standard core curriculum and then remove education from political control completely?