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.
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.