at a moss-decked burn

Last weekend we’d gone to an art fair in Chelsea followed by a film – the hard-hitting Ken Loach offering which had wrung its inevitable emotional response from us both so that when we emerged we felt as though we’d been pummelled.  The irony of where we’d come out onto was not lost on us either – we were in one of the richest boroughs of the country.  Alexander had been telling me that at some provincial cinemas the film wasn’t showing this week despite it being its opening week because of the school half-term break.  Not even in Ken Loach’s own town – what a cock up!

As we headed towards South Kensington station we walked past housing originally meant for those with modest means now very obviously housing a different stratum of society – the air of gentrification evident in the neat shrubbery, well-kept facades and expensive modes of transport ready to whisk the occupants to places of leisure and pleasure.  Two American tourists stop to ask for directions and after we’d sent them along the right direction walked hand in comfortable hand homewards.

So it was only yesterday at nearly midday we kissed each other goodbye.  And last night we texted goodnight.  And this morning hello as well as looking forward to seeing you later.  We can’t have enough of each other it seems.  There’s so much to discover and we boldly-ishly reveal some of our secrets – the ones that make us seem cool but not too off-puttingly shocking.  We have judged it about right so far.  During my most recent crisis when my youngest showed animosity at my inviting Alexander back home, he, ie Alexander took the opportunity to tell me the worst of his own domestic circs.  It doesn’t put me off in the slightest that he is still married or that he has children under the age of ten or that his wife still harbours an unhealthy amount of fury and vitriol against him which may be apt to erupt in the foreseeable future.  For my own self-preservation I begged him never to reveal my existence to said termagant.  Of course it is only his side I’m hearing of their breakup but I do recognise that degree of maleficence, lodged in my very own bosom nearly a decade and a half ago now.

All this, far from causing me pause or to flee, in fact offers the assurance that Alexander and I have nearly all the time in the world to conduct our love affair – all that time being the same lenthy time it takes for such complex relations as his to untangle.   My current accord and goodwill shared with the ex seems to offer some hope to Alexander that at some point in the future, he too will enjoy a similar degree of cooperation with his ex.

For a change from our outings I invited him round for dinner this evening.  A few others will also be at home but not the young rebel and I have high hopes for a peaceable meal.

How I feel, at what stage we’re at, it all feels like this:

 not rushing – stopping,
sink down on a verdant bank
sip the moss-decked burn.

kissah

A domestic hiccup

On Sunday evening, both of us in high spirits, and keen to meet up again, had done so.  Alexander happened to be in north London visiting a friend and on leaving at ten pm had texted me and the upshot of the conversation saw me picking him up from south Hampstead station.  It was mad since we’d only said our goodbyes that morning but this is a mad stage we’re in – whatsapping into the early hours when apart and making love several times into the night when we are together.  So that was the headiness of last week when all at home were in good spirits and happy enough for me.

In the week we continued our midnight conversations until Thursday when we walked about the National Gallery looking at Caravaggios and then headed onto the Strand before finishing up at the India Club.  It was the same old decor, with Gandhi and Nehru looking down at the diners and we came home merry and happy.

The weekend saw some difficulty with one offspring and this prompted Alexander to show tremendous patience and kindness – by not reacting and then relating some of his own domestic trials in an effort to offer me some distraction from my own.   I feel exhausted after all that has happened but am determined to continue seeing A despite some hostility from my own son.

Setting boundaries re Julius

After the disastrous holiday with Julius, I hoped never to have to see him again and so was quite daunted when his email appeared in my inbox a few days ago asking for a face to face if I wanted him to return some DVDs I had lent him.  Of course I’d rather give those DVDs up as lost than have to meet up with him, but conscious that he had also lent me a set of his own, I offered to send these to him if he would only provide me with his postal details.  Fortunately I never heard from him again, which is a tremendous relief.  This may be due to the fact that he has not survived his hospital visit (he had probably hoped to play the sympathy card by telling me he was an hour away from being admitted for an investigation in his most recent email) but I did not rise to the bait.  Hopefully I’ll never find out and I rather suspect he is healthily being a nuisance to some other unsuspecting woman.

Trying to unpick what put me off him completely, I have to return to the first date when he was already pushing for an intimacy which I hadn’t felt ready for.  At the time I was sufficiently strong in myself to say no.  As we exchanged messages and I found myself being attracted to him, there was continued pressure for intimacy from him, even after the second date.  I must admit that I was by that stage feeling apprehensive about it – that should have been sufficient warning bells, but perhaps I was flattered by his situation, his obvious interest in me – he was an intellectual and it appealed to my vanity that someone learnèd should be interested in me.  So the second date ended with him in my bed.  It wasn’t fantastic, but I did not want to be thought of as shallow or callous – he had been honest about his erectile dysfunction and I felt I had been and needed to be considerate towards him on that front.

The next red flag appeared when I told him about some of the fantasy/sci-fi stories I had discovered whilst exploring this genre which is more his domain.  One of them was by a woman writing under a male pseudonym, Love is the plan the plan is death – this is a short story which I had found fascinating and told J about.  Well, he wasn’t interested in looking it up.  And so a missed opportunity to engage in discussion.  It also made me realise that he tended not to have a very balanced view about the sexes and despite another heads up from me of another recent fantasy/dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel, also by a female writer, he had not appeared interested.  I couldn’t help wondering at this point if he was unsympathetic to the feminist viewpoint or at worst a misogynist.  You might excuse his age for some of his unenlightened attitudes – some might mistake these for chivalry, but believe me it is fairly tiresome to have someone insist on walking on one side of the pavement (and just ridiculous that he would rush to the edge when we had to change direction) or holding one’s hand when crossing the road.  I am not a child and whilst yes I might be shorter and physically weaker, I do have road safety awareness!

Added to the suspicions I was having, I began to notice that my preferences were disregarded and when I had expressed a desire to do something different to his own I was the one who had to compromise.  Initially I had been happy to acquiesce to my lover but as there was no quid pro quo, his shine began to dull.  In addition, I found his lack of respect for my personal space insensitive – he thought nothing of tapping my arm/knee/hand with the end of his pen or whatever object he happened to be holding when we were facing each other in conversation, to make a point or in an absent-minded fashion.  I’m sure most people would find that kind of familiarity annoying too.

By the time the holiday came round, I had managed to avoid seeing him for a couple of weeks prior and regained my self-esteem. Initially I tried to be cheerful and neutral but his continued lack of empathy and neediness just grated on me.  When the holiday ended and we agreed to remain friends, I knew that I would only keep future contact minimal.  He had written a final email to apologise for his bad temper during the holiday but in the same breath chastise me for not wanting to continue a platonic relationship with him, bringing up the fact that I remained friendly with most of my exes.  I did not feel the need to respond to this part of his email judging that it would only result in a to and fro of blame-casting.  Moreover, his touchy-feeliness creeped me out: his constant need for touch – I’d felt pawed towards the end of the relationship and right up to the last time I saw him when he had insisted on more than just the handshake I would have been more comfortable with, had felt as though I was begrudging when he hugged me.  Now why would I put myself in that awkward situation again?

And so ends finally I hope the unhappy chapter of my infatuation over Julius and any further encounters I might have with him.  The one advantage of meeting someone from a dating app is that in real life our paths would never have crossed and so lessen the likelihood of stumbling over each other without prior arrangement.

The first weekend Alexander spends at mine

The rain pattered noisily on the velux windows above us this morning; above a replete pair recumbent in each others’ arms.  I marvelled at how I welcomed Alexander’s embrace and felt nothing but a deep fondness for him at that moment.  He had been attentive and enthusiastic in his efforts last night – so much so that a few slats under the bed had come apart and clattered to the floor when we were in mid-congress.  Being not in the least distracted we carried on until he eventually climaxed.  I couldn’t help thinking that it was a rather extended session and he apologised also for taking so long at it.  It was then that I asked him whether, in the past few dates that we had had, he had taken anything to enhance his sexual performance.  He said that he had but not last night.  I was gratified later that morning that sans artifice, he succeeded in clearing two more hurdles with a little rest in between, before we finally got up.

Earlier the previous afternoon we’d had a date involving a walk on Hampstead Heath, getting caught in the rain on the way back to the car via a coffee stop.  When we got back  to mine, we had some wine and began preparations for the meal Alexander had promised to cook for me, and as it turned out, for the rest of the people at home too.  Finishing a bottle of red between us, he at the stove and I as general kitchen helper, washing up and putting some music on in between chatting to him and anyone else who came into the kitchen, drawn by the lovely aroma of chorizo, chicken, paprika and mirepoix cooking, I was more than a little merry by the time we all, five of us sat down to dinner.  I liked how easily he slipped into my weekend routine on this, his first meeting with some members of my family.

Knowing how close he was to his mother – he had once said that she was now like a good mate to him with the mere two decades between them, and her retaining a fairly youthful outlook – I’d asked him if he had mentioned me to her and what she thought of his dating me.  He had previously told me that he thought we might get on as we seem to have similar ideas about relationships and independence.  I was, of course, flattered at being compared favourably to someone who was significant to him.  He hastened to add that she  respected his choices and never sought to influence them directly.  He said that she had admired the way I told him from the beginning about my non-monogamous lifestyle.  This led to a discussion of his still tentative view of it, and a confession on my part that far from being an ethical slut, he was the only man I was currently seeing since Jan is far too busy with his gf and Ewan was so far away in the Highlands.   I still retain my liberal belief that relationships should not be shackling whilst being quite content at the moment to date him exclusively.  He was uncertain whether he might feel intense jealousy at the thought of me with another man but respected my lifestyle choice.

We each confessed to the increasing warm feelings we felt for one another, whilst establishing that we were comfortable with the boundaries we set out – respecting the time apart between dates, how unnecessary to be too needful of physical contact, the necessity of maintaining our own privacy and independence and so on.

I’m determined not to repeat past mistakes – of rushing ahead or making dates into the future – and so when we said our goodbyes at 11 this morning, we only made one tentative date for the middle of next week.   He told me he had a footie event he was attending with his friend on Tuesday evening and I quite welcome the idea that I would regain more time for myself next week.  He had asked me about the big five oh, when my birthday was on and whether I’d anything arranged.  I was almost tempted to invite him to celebrate it with me but held back because it is still two months away and a lot could happen in that time.  He seemed to appreciate this without my having to articulate my feelings on it, moreover he must be quite aware by now that I pretty much do things on an adhoc basis.

Things to come

Alexander bought tickets for us to watch Things to come, featuring Isabelle Huppert who is one of my favourite actors – he too confessed to having fallen in thrall with her since seeing her in The Lacemaker many, many years ago.  This is one of those films which holds its audience in quiet captivation, dealing with issues familiar to people of our age – an ageing parent, a failed long term relationship, relations with adult children and others.   There are moments of light relief, allowing us to laugh at our human frailty – the vain and attention-seeking mother, the once radical now turned bourgeois family, the reality of the battle between profit and staying true to one’s beliefs.

There are philosophical tropes, mention of Rousseau, and other philosophers, the belief that the younger generation is always questioning, doubting, seeking change, even a hint of radicalisation.  The strength of the character Huppert plays is evident in the way she embraces her new life in the face of the bereavement she suffers and when her husband leaves her for a younger woman – she declares in surprised delight that she has found freedom.  There are no cliched reactions, no lapses; she doesn’t embark on a rebound affair despite the tension we cannot help feeling in the scenes with her protege Fabien, in the close confines of a car.  Instead there’s a quiet dignity about her even when she tries to bin the floral display on the dining table – I can only guess that they were a present from her now departed husband.

Huppert’s is a character who will make no compromises  If she had faltered, it was only human – in an earlier scene she had marvelled at her own idiocy, believing that he would love her forever.  When he confessed to his philandering, she had murmured her reproof that he might not have kept the secret affair to himself – suggesting that she could have gone along with the lie. Towards the end however, you cannot help but admire her for her ruthless determination in maintaining the separation between them, removing her things from their holiday home, demanding his set of keys to the marital home and single-handedly getting her empty house ready for festive cheer and dinner for her children and grandson.  One feels almost sorry for the cheating husband who has nothing but Schopenhauer to keep him company over Christmas.

When the film ended he took me to dine at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant.  It was delicious fare and fun to eat with our hands.  We couldn’t wait to get back to mine after the meal, specifically into bed with each other.  At some point in the early hours of the night I told him that I felt quite soppy towards him, sensing that he was similarly smitten.  He is.  I wondered aloud when we might have our first tiff.  He must’ve thought me a very strange lover.  In the morning, following the usual routine of a romp, showers, coffee, dog-walking and drive to the station/work we quietly enjoyed each other’s company and finally kissed our goodbyes, looking forward to Saturday when we had promised to meet again.