We have definitively split up. I might at some point put a little more detail on how it happened but it's too close and upsetting at the moment. She's everywhere in the house--the pillows on her side of the bed were just as she had arranged them; she's in the kitchen--the cheese and the blueberries and the yoghurt and other things she bought, and there's the Teletubbies cup she used for her coffee; she's in the front room, where I doubt I will be able to play The Dictionary Game with anyone for a while.
Worst of all, is her lovely Christmas card she had made out of a photograph of us on a beach in North Wales. Both of us happy, leaning into each other. Our bookclub book this month was Things Fall Apart. And although they did towards the end, I will only remember her as one of the kindest, most generous, and loving women I have ever met. It's tragic that I couldn't reciprocate the love she wanted to create for us.
On the night Trina and I split up I both regretful and relieved.
Most times we went down the pub, Trina would ask us to get our diaries out and plan what we were doing weeks ahead. I go along with it and prepare myself for the apologies when my slack life disappoints her. As Kim said last weekend "Women end up administering men's lives."
Around midnight on the night after we had "split up", (after my unconscionable decision to reinstate a beer tasting night without consulting her first) I was luxuriating in my own company. I saw that Carl Weathers's You Ought To Be With Me had appeared on You Tube. I'd never seen it there before. Twenty-odd years ago, a subculturally-eminent soul DJ used to invite listeners to submit their Top Threes. One Sunday, he chosen mine to play. You Ought To Be With Me was my number one.
The following morning, I received this disruptive email.
I was irritated with her for retrospectively spoiling my joy. How did she know that I had been playing it? I found out later that she had found through one of the ways in which YT makes collective what should be shared. She assumed that I had been thinking of her, love-lorn.
She sent me an email in which she said that "all I'm doing is criticising and nagging you and making you feel unhappy and confused" and will not do so in the future. Then, a reinstatement of her coming round on Monday, for two nights.
We had a good afternoon of Prosecco and sex on Monday. That evening I went with my eldest for an exhilerating evening of orienteering training, a constant 1.5 hours of running and scrambling and leaping in our craggy, slippery, wooded, park. I felt a bit self-conscious about my clothes--a brown check waist-length shirt, and some narrow beige cotton trousers, the nearest things I could muster to proper orienteering dress.
We had to leave the "wind-down" game of frisbee as a team sport because I wanted to go with Trina to The Gatekeepers, a film in which past heads of Shin Bet were interviewed about their experiences in dealing with Palestinian and Israeli extremists. I'd never have thought that I would come out of a film feeling some sympathy with the Israeli Security Services.
Back with Trina, I was silent on all the misgivings, trying not to spoil the Renaissance. Now, after two days of both pleasure and doubts, I am exhausted with having to do emotional work, even to talk, on insufficient sleep.
Exhausted with her snoring: exhausted falling asleep after sex and then her snoring; exhausted with putting my T-shirt and pants on at 2am to go downstairs, exhausted with dragging the quilt out of a bag that doesn't want to give it up, exhausted with springing alert to attention when the lodger's door opens at 7.30am and quickly, almost panickly rolling the duvet back up into its bag and putting the cushion back into the cellar because I don't want to be seen in the living room before he goes out; exhausted with going back to bed with her at 7.35 and ten minutes of cuddling and then falling asleep, but then again, her snoring, getting up, with her saying "Are you off again?" with a mixture of disappointment and reproach.
She left at about 3pm today and I was relieved. Is this what "compromise" means? Second best, to an idealised first that doesn't exist (Kim, but with sex)? All my relationships end up feeling like jobs.
Whilst I was at Kim's, we read Smoke and Fluff, about two naughty kittens.
I have decided to delete the rest of the post; I'm not satisfied with its quality now that I'm sober. It's certainly not as good as this classic of English literature.
Kim sent me a postcard, thanking me for "a truly wonderful time". It'll have a privileged place on my bedroom wall.
Yesterday, Trina and I coated the air with the fishy smell of kippers and lemon sole, then went for a drink before this month's wine tasting. It was the Veneto region, and I had some of the blandest whites I have ever tasted. "Wedding wine", someone said. "Hen party wine," she added. The reds were excellent though.
At the end of the evening I stood up to announce my next Belgian Beer Tasting, and my plans for an Anglo-French cider taste-off in July. Out of the corner of my eye, as I circulated and tried to gather people's email addresses, I could see Trina sitting sullenly.
In the pub afterwards, it all turned sour. She was annoyed that I was running the beer tasting on an evening I'd told her I'd be getting ready for my France holiday. "You told me you weren't going to do it that night, so I've made other plans." "I know darling--believe me, until half an hour ago, I didn't think I was doing it either. It was just with all those people there and people asking me about the last one, I decided to reinstate it."
What had up to then been a most enjoyable evening, descended into me fencing off her familiar riff, of how I constantly indicate I am not ready for any kind of commitment, about how I exclude her. "I just don't think about 'the relationship' very much, or as deeply as you do," I said--which irritated her even further.
Back here, I laid out my bed downstairs, to which I repair because of her snoring, before going back up to the bedroom. I started getting ready to get into bed with her. "No," she said. "You may as well go now."
I got up this morning and went upstairs to see if we could kiss and make up. She had gone, leaving a farewell note on the pillow, saying that she is "finishing this often lovely and often difficult relationship." A couple of weeks ago we booked a few days away in Strasbourg. "Take Kim," she said. "She'd love it," something which was said unenviously, with her customary generosity.
But on the substantive issue I think she's right: I'm unable to agree to what eventually I would find a stifling, conventional, dreary relationship. The thought of marriage repels me, and I had felt us drifting towards it, without the certificate.
I was appointed Presiding Officer (how grand) at a rural polling station about as distant from Lancaster as it's possible to be without straying into Westmorland. Trina drove me there at 6am on polling day.
Spending fifteen hours in a stranger's company, with no breaks for meals, can be a bit testing, but my poll clerk was a retired policeman with whom I've worked before, keen to share stories from his days as a Superintendant. As in many men's anecdotal conversation, his rhetorical trope was one that involved an assertion of authority, in a way which bends the rules slightly, and which results in the other party giving in by way of not knowing what to say in the face of such a cheeky but powerful flourish.
It was a beautifully situated Station, surrounded by fields and with a view of Ingleborough from the kitchen. We could sit outside much of the time, and I read most of Rose Tremain's The Road Home, mystified why such a straightforward tale told in unremarkable prose, using a small vocabulary, had won the Orange Prize. I can only assume that a story of a struggling but eventually successful immigrant taps into liberal sympathies towards the virtuous outsider that are privileged over considerations of style and invention.
At the end of the poll, Plod was rushing me to get the paperwork finished and due to his haste there was a minor administrative detail which went wrong. I resented this; I have been favoured with more and more work over the years, because I believe I have never made a mistake in any of my Stations' accounts; to hell with "getting away quickly".
The caretaker came to lock up, Plod drove off to his barn conversion, and there was ten minutes in which I felt the guilt that comes from standing alone, absurdly, with a packed up polling station next to me, in the middle of the countryside. My friend arrived to take me and the paraphernalia back to the "leisure" centre where we were to count the votes the following morning. She rolled up a spliff, which heightened my usual nervousness about being in a car.
The highlight of the count was the Conservative candidate in my Division being announced--as all candidates are--surname first, as "Hill, Billy" (and that he came a poor third).
From there, it was straight to Kim's amusingly-named village. It's an anglicisation of petit mere, little lake. The lake's long gone and the village we see today was built on an exhausted coal mine, which made me wonder whether the house was going to collapse any minute.
I am smitten with Kim, in that chaste way that I am good at creating. "You are beautiful, sexy, witty and intelligent," I told her at one point. She had on a tight thigh-length blue dress, brown calf-high boots and black tights. She looked gorgeous as she bent over the table to hoover up a white line, the dress stretching round her arse and arcing across her thighs; I told her so, without the detail you lucky readers enjoy. Feeling her next to me in the bed, her little murmurs and sighs and shifting about, was a delight.
On Sunday we slowly got ready for a dance do in Newcastle which was given top billing on the Guardian's clubbing section that weekend. That should have been the first sign that all would not be well. It was the least enjoyable dance event I have ever been to, second only to the time in King's Cross twenty-odd years ago when two rival drug gangs had infiltrated a club I was in. It was an open air cesspit, a piss-wetted, bottle-strewn area where we were kettled with music. Crowds swarmed round the completely inadequate toilets, and we were not allowed to go out.
Kerry Chandler's set was dire, a stop-start series of off-the-shelf clichés, all whooshing and sirens increasing in frequency. Constantly jostled, nudged and simply pushed out of the way, I finally gave in after an hour and a half when a drunk girl fell over heavily right next to us. "I'm not really enjoying this Kim. Do you think we could do something else?"
The way she transformed the evening was almost miraculous. "Let's see if my brother and M--- want to go kite flying." We bought a bottle of cheap sherry, and took the rest of the port and a few bottles of beer. Her relatives were easy company, accepting me straight away. Kim's little niece ran about with the kite, wringing out every bit of energy left in the dusk, while in the intervals between helping her, the adults swigged the booze.
Her brother bought a case of lager and came back to Kim's, where we had an evening which was almost delirious at times with Trevor's sudden, irreverent, sweary jokes. "I love you," I told her, and kissed her while he was out of the room.
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