It’s been six months. We’re still hot for each other. Things have changed slightly though and we see each other twice a week, sometimes three, young children are nearly always around, although occasionally we get to go to the theatre or do grown up things on our own but more and more we now try and integrate the children on both sides into each other’s weekends.
He told me it’s hard being a full-time dad. I’ll bet it is. It’s relentless, the washing, the cooking, the feeding, the tears, refereeing sibling rivalry, packing school lunches, going to work after walking sleepy children to school breakfast clubs, checking trains to pick up from after-school clubs on time, having to find out about 11-plus exams, helping them cope with anxieties over the changes to their routines – going to work is probably a walk in the park. Wondering how the heck I got here on my own. I don’t know the half of it as I’ve never ever had to be a full time single parent myself.
And of course sometimes it’s downright depressing and he says he gets really angry at the ex. I can only imagine that must be hard because blaming someone else is not what he does normally. I’m on his side totally. I am amazed when he makes excuses for her unreliability.
The one chink of positivity is that now he calls the shots as far as how he wants to parent. He can be the role model for his children and besides the stability and normality that he gives them he can also show them what it’s like to try new things. There’s strength in being able to ask for help or even hire help. I agree with him that to be a sane and normal father he deserves some time out occasionally. But setting all these thints up takes time and patience.
I’m full of admiration for this man and his optimism. I’d be an idiot not to stick around.
Another weekend away, but a first in other ways. This time we drove the girls to grandma Catherine’s who had tea ready for them and fish pie for us. It had been raining heavily in the last hour of the journey but we stopped off to get some wine and flowers. The little one came into the shop with me while Alexander stayed in the car with the other. When we arrived the children had their tea before us so that we could have ours later. We stayed up with Cathy having drunk about two and a half bottles of first a white, and then a fizzy rosé from the Test valley and finally a blended red of merlot and cab sauv. It was another convivial evening with tales of happier times as well as those unfortunate dates who have been consigned to the past but occasionally crop up to remind us why they had been unsuitable.
In the morning Ella came into our bed and it felt sweet and cosy to be playing happy families once again with tiddlers. Later when we were getting ready to leave for some grownup time, A’s older girl, Sasha gave me a hug and it felt warm and happy. The young things have accepted me into their lives and I am so grateful for their unquestioning and unreserved welcome. A’s mother has been lovely too in this and offering to have his children.
We drove on quiet country lanes passing beautiful rolling pasture. The Wiltshire landscape is not spoken about much even though it holds its own next to its better-known sisters, with a fair few stunning moments when sun, sky and cloud played their parts.
We had gone to Bristol just to be on our own for a bit, watch Othello at the Factory Theatre, have meals at places with as few children as possible. I asked him if he would consider getting a tattoo with me. We giggled over getting ones with stoats. On Sunday morning we did a few touristy things and had a pub lunch at Clifton. It had been another successful outing.
I remember Max’s email enquiry as to our secret to happy coupling. I want to tell him that it comes mainly from confidence in one’s ability to select the right partner and having found him/her to continue with the knowledge that we wanted the same happy outcomes. Is it really as simple as that? It has yet to sink in and so I leave the reply for another time.
Last weekend Alexander’s girls visited on Saturday and we went out for pizza with one of my children. I went home with them later that evening and came back home on Sunday morning. It was probably just the right amount of time to spend together. This coming weekend A’s mum is having the girls and we arranged to have a short weekend break on our own, without children. Our first!
The fact that A is now a full time parent is gradually sinking in. He says he does the domestic routine on autopilot. His employers are family friendly and he works from home a couple of days in the week. He might have a short afternoon nap before making tea for them and then getting them ready for bed – they are amazingly docile and biddable to his 8pm cut off time when they may keep themselves quietly occupied until sleep takes over. In this way he manages to have the rest of the evening to himself.
The schools haven’t quite got used to his being in loco parentis quite yet. Having been used to dealing with the ex, the crazy and unreasonable woman, they’d become accustomed to issuing diktats it seems and did the same to A recently. But these minor blips should resolve themselves over time. And all the organisations involved in the girls’ welfare should come to respect his parenting abilities.
Last night I went round to spend the evening with him and his girls. The older one indicated an interest in making stress balls and I suggested a method and we made a couple together. Tonight he told me she started making more and he had to dissuade her from making one for each person in her class.
Meanwhile I keep busy with that lazy bread making method requiring no kneading. We chat on WhatsApp while apart and plan the future. It may mean he moves closer to me, whilst still keeping his own separate household. At the moment, that sounds ideal for I’m still gradually getting used to the idea of living together when there are such young children involved.
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.