Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My weekend.

Lunch for 15 of my closest colleagues in Ciao Bella where I resisted the pizza and the fragrant spag in a bag which has to be the best in London for the price and had instead a dreary omelette with broccoli and then about four glasses of wine.  Drunk.  Staggered home whilst trying to look sober, happily anticipating pleasure of the weekend, when I espied, frolicking towards me the outstretched, hand-holding, squat figure of ex-husband and girlfriend, both grinning with the sort of pleasure I used to feel whilst doing the same thing like they were auditioning for the Sound of Music and had just crested a Swiss Alp.  I didn't know I had any pain left to feel, but there it is again - fresher than ever.  When is it done?  Surely you get to saturation point somewhere?  Even though they resembled a pair of Americans on shore leave from a cut price Caribbean cruise - she in a yellow t-shirt, and mid thigh shorts, plain and vaguely retarded looking (the glasses, I think), it spatchcocked me on to skewers, wide open, all the better to rip my guts out.  Oh God.  Quickly examine the newly refurbished Notting Hill Gate branch of McDonalds (darn it I was past Jamie's Recipease, waste of space, overpriced, overstaffed, understocked big shop full of nothing - bring back WH Smith's please) as though I had just landed from space and never seen a Happy Meal before.  Almost past it when ex bounds up to me with puppy-pleased smile on face, saying hello.

Hello?  I mean, fuck me, but Hello?  The last time I saw the girlfriend I told her it was a pity she didn't have any coffee in her cup because I'd always planned on throwing it at her (I had, it was well rehearsed in my mind, but of course, I'd never do that, I just liked the thought of it), so now I'm going to stop and exchange social niceties?  

'I saw you, I was ignoring you deliberately and pretending not to see you,'  I said, without turning my head away from the delights of McDonalds, and without breaking my stride.  He fell back, presumably to recommence skipping, and I walked on into Butlers Homeware where I stopped, momentarily, just to catch my breath, decided I had more homeware than I needed, and went home to be worn by it.

And I was.  I am.  The builders have been and gone and left everything with a fine film of sawdust.  So I cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned, still slightly inebriated, though the sight of ex and Mrs ex in their loved up little bubble which my existence will never burst still stung.  Not as much as the bleach.


I decided to do a real re-organisation job.  I emptied cupboard after cupboard.  I retrieved lost pans from down the back of drawers, and matched lids with containers.  I stacked tupperware according to size.  I relocated cake tins to new homes and counted cup cake trays.  I put all the appliances in one place with the never ever used ones to the dark, black recesses, and almost unused ones - (ie once in last two years)  to the front.  I put my large collection of jam jars in the newly named jam jar cupboard and then sat in the red chair where I usually cry and thought - what the fuck am I doing?  Who had fricking jam jar collections?  What am I saving them for?  I don't know how to make jam.  Why do I have a knife sharpener that the ex mother in law bought me (did she not think I was sharp enough?) and a cake tin shaped like a beehive?  Oh, okay - two cake tins shaped like a beehive (one was a gift)?  Why do I have ten different casseroles and three tureens? Why am I polishing the brash tray that used to belong to lovely ex-mother in law and now seems to be mine?  Why am I the custodian of ex's family memories?  All this stuff collected for this old life where I was the one skipping through Notting Hill Gate hand-in-hand, then returning to make cakes shaped like beehives and serving microwave chinese food in a tureen...  And why the hell am I standing here spraying it all with Ammonia Kitchen Cleaner and replacing it in cupboards nobody really opens?  Why is my pantry a still life, nicer looking than any of the displays in Recipease?  Why am I sounding like the opening credits on that old American program Soap?

I am cleaning up after a life I don't have any more, I thought sadly.  Actually it was worse than sad. 

But then I realised, I do still have that life, it's just that it's only mine - not ours, and that's okay.  I like the beehive cake tin.  I like the casseroles.  The life may be singular but that doesn't mean it has no value.  Sniff.  Sniff.  

Youngest came downstairs and flounced up to the fridge.  Opened it.  Closed it.  Implication:  You are a terrible mother, there is no food in the fridge, I hate you.

'Do you think you might give me a hand?' I asked brightly.  

'Oh Fuck Off,'  she said and disappeared upstairs.

Wait for it.


Bedroom door closes.

I guess that's a no then.

This life - all mine.


Saturday morning.  Bf asleep.  Cat asleep.  Son asleep.  Daughter asleep.  Me awake - cleaning.


Saturday afternoon.  Chelsea v Newcastle.  I'm wearing new frock with visible bra, just visible.  BF does not notice.  I realise that in the last month every single text Bf has sent me contains news about football.  Results of other matches that I care about as much about as I do the contents of my drains.  There is one word of endearment.  In a month.  No wonder he doesn't notice the bra.

He chats all through the match.  I could be a block of wood.  Gary on the other side presses his big thigh into mine and then lowers his Mr Punch head and whispers: 'you don't need me to keep you warm today?'  More's the pity Gary, more's the pity.  Bf on the other side is biting his lip, his nails, his cheek and keeping up a running commentary.

We win. 

Over the post-match curry I realise that we talk about football for the entire meal.  Is it bad that I'm actually engaged with this?  Since I learned the offside rule, I think I'm bloody Gary Linekar without the penchant, apparently, for young girls.  I talk tactics, and players, and can even compare performances to previous matches.

It seems I have found love.  It just has goalposts.


Sunday morning.  Bf asleep.  Cat asleep.  Son asleep.  Daughter asleep.  Boy on sofa who told me his name is Mike, not asleep any more since I inadvertently woke him.  Me awake - cooking.

I'm in the sparkling kitchen grilling aubergines and making a fragrantly delicious mushroom soup that I'm not going to eat but my kids, Carnivalling today, shall.  At 10 we're on our way with picnic to station to take a train to Walmer from where we walk to Sandwich along a coastline of unvarying flatness, emptiness, three or four steeply undulating dunes of pebbles away from an equally flat, empty sea.  Quite lovely, if apocalyptic.  Where are all the people?  Surely not all at the Notting Hill Carnival?  We trudge.  There's a lot of trudging.  I'm tired.   Bf points out things on the horizon I can't see.  Eventually at Sandwich Bay we meet humanity.  It has driven from its home to park its car by the edge of the pebbles where it assembles a cordon of windbreaks around the car, into which it sets two deck chairs and a table, where it sits, facing the car - usually with the door open - and eats sandwiches.  Why bother coming out?  The flat, calm, unruffled sea is ignored.  It's an unnecessary backdrop.  

Much like me, I think.


Monday morning.  Bf asleep.  Cat asleep.  Son asleep.  Daughter asleep.  Mike still on sofa. Other daughter asleep.  Other daughter's boyfriend asleep.  Me awake.  Feeling pukey.  Surely not the omelette I had (again) yesterday since the feeling predates this.  Surely not the prosecco that I bought in M&S in St Pancras which Bf served me in a half-pint glass in the bath?  Surely not the sex scenes that I have to google in order to write article for Woman and Home by end of today.  Maybe, I'm thinking, as Jessica Lange tells Jack Nicolson to 'come on, huh' while snarling at him from the edge of that kitchen table - since there's about as much chance of that happening to me as there is of me discovering I have wings.  Especially since if I cleared off all the bread and the pans and the fricking knife, I'd be the one picking it all back up again and washing the floor.  

I google.  I write.  I show Bf the scene from The Secretary but his only response is to claim a headache.  He then disappears downstairs to the loo, comes back half an hour and The English Patient later just as Kirstin is languishing in the bath, and announces he's sick.  He gets into bed and goes to sleep.  Comatose until....


Tuesday morning.  When he's still asleep.   Cat asleep.  Son asleep.  Daughter asleep.  Mike no longer on the sofa. Daughter and boyfriend returned to Oxford.  Me awake, as I have been most of the night as I don't feel well myself.  I step over the cat, have a shower, put on some trousers that are too tight for me - despite not eating anything yesterday and walking 7 miles the day before, I haven't lost an ounce.

I come to work.  It's 7.45.  I'm the only person in the office.  

The milk is off.