Friday, 13 July 2012

So Long and thanks for all the follows

I've been outed very publicly now, so I think the time has come to write my last entry.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that, with the OH working most of the time in Japan and Joe spending several hours most days in the house instead, that our friendship became somewhat more than that.  Certainly not 50 Shades more, but...  I didn't tell anyone and Joe didn't tell anyone, but clearly someone found out.  My guess is that Fiona has a paid informer in Neighbourhood Watch as not long after we overstepped the mark, anonymous notes appeared through the letterbox, followed a few days later by dog mess.  I'm not sure why anyone other than Alison or the OH should mind, and since both of them were out of the country at the time, you can see why my mind settled on Fiona as the protagonist.

Anyway, someone spread the word, hence my need to reach the post office without meeting anyone I knew, although I have since realised that people were crossing the road to avoid me.  Seriously! That totally backfired, then, as I didn't notice at the time.  But villages being what they are, one of Celeste's friends found out, told Celeste, who told George, who told...  well, possibly they took an ad out on one of those giant billboards in the States, but more significantly, the OH and Alison both found out.

Funny, isn't it, how different people react differently to the same thing?

Within hours of finding out, the OH was on a flight back from Japan and came for an all-purpose slanging match.  Apparently he had been holding back from the regular karaoke evenings at work because they tended to involve more than just singing, but now, given my outright treachery (his phrase), he will be indulging in everything that his new life has to offer (again, his phrase). He contacted a few people, such as lawyers, before flying back again, having made his position more than clear.

Alison laughed.  She sent me a good luck card.  When she did have a change of heart, it wasn't in the way you might think.  Since I had been asked to vacate the family home, she suggested I move in with Joe. Yes, you read that correctly.  She suggested it.  Her rationale is this: she is away from home a lot with her job and she is not surprised that her husband might occasionally feel lonely, but she would rather know who he is feeling lonely with (a touch hypocritical, you might think, after what she and Max got up to, but as I said earlier, everyone's different).  Effectively, she has suggested a menage à trois.

It took me a few days and a lot of persuasion from Joe to come round to this arrangement.  Verity spent several evenings and a number of bottles of wine letting me talk it through, although she's still not convinced that I'm doing the right thing.

"It's a very, um, modern, arrangement," she said eventually.  "And let's be brutally honest, you're not the most, um, modern, person around, are you?"

But people can change, and although the idea feels rather weird at the moment, I feel happier about it than the idea of trying to stay faithful to someone who's away seven weeks out of eight.  And although it's not the best time to be selling a house, Joe has put his on the market and we, as in the three of us, are looking at particulars for places in a city (Alison via skype, at present, from Washington DC), where people won't notice quite so much the comings and goings of one individual house.  After all, when you're in a small village, everyone is always taking notes.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Taking the Fifth

Mostly, I shall maintain a dignified/tactful silence in this entry.  However, in a quick sprint to the post office this morning, carefully timed to avoid both the school-run mummies and the e-bay posters who might wish to harangue me, I ran into (not literally, fortunately) someone whom I only vaguely recognised and who clearly only vaguely recognised me.
"Are you the woman who looks after the advertisers in the village magazine?" she asked me, after a brief struggle to attract my attention, made harder by the fact that she couldn't remember my name either.
"No.  You need to speak to..."  I couldn't remember if it was Deirdre back at her post, or if Annie was doing it now, or if someone else had taken on the job.  But it didn't matter, as my assailant hadn't listened to my reply.
"I'm getting really fed up, where my ad is going."
I didn't know who she was so knowing anything about her ad was clearly a step too far.
"I'm Fay, of 'Flowers by Fay'." The name rang the faintest of bells. "Every month for the last I can't remember how long, my advert has been next to a funeral director's in the magazine.  The only business I'm getting is for funeral wreaths! It's depressing.  Can't you put it next to a bridal ad or something?"
I briefly wondered what kind of business she'd get if her ad was next to an accountant's, or a garage mechanic's, but didn't say anything, other than suggest she get in touch with Deirdre.  But really, in these times, she should probably be grateful to be getting any business at all! Quite apart from the general economic downturn, the last three funerals I've been to all requested no flowers and donations to charity.
Other than that, diplomatic silence. For now.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


   Trying to find some time to visit Joe has proved more difficult than you might imagine.  I tried visiting him at his normal 'taking a break' time on Monday, but there was no answer.  While I was standing there, wondering whether to leave him a note or not, his gardener sauntered up the path, carrying a tray of baby geraniums. "If you're after Mister Author, he's at some conference or something. And Missus is in the States still."
   "Oh. Thank you."  I wasn't quite sure what else to say to this unwarranted generosity of information.
   "He'll be back Thursday, she'll be back when it suits her. Geranium?"  And he offered me a small bunch of weary-looking leaves clutching some roots.
   I thanked him again, took the geranium and went home.  After planting and some watering, it looked a little happier if lonely, so on Wednesday, I headed down to the garden centre, to acquire some companions for it.  The terracotta pots were on sale, one thing led to another, and after a couple more trips I have created my own little Tuscan backdrop, some of it in flower already.  Once it's more colourful, I might manage a photo for you. 
   I was quite proud of my handiwork, especially once I'd mown the lawn (usually the OH's job) and thought, given the weather forecast, that I should invite some people round so it could be viewed before the weeds took over again.  However, my first call was to Verity, so that my plans were instantly thrown.
   "Oh, what a good idea.  In fact, even better, we'll hold it here - there'll be far less work for you to do by yourself then, and it will give people a chance to see that Max and I are back together."
   Telling her that people would then not be able to admire my lovely garden was an unsuccessful play.  "But our garden's so much bigger, it'll be much better here.  Right, don't you worry about a thing now, I'd better make some phone calls and tell Max to make sure the barbecue stuff is all working." And she hung up before I could protest again.  Just occasionally, dealing with Verity is a little like being steam-rollered.
   Anyway, circumstances (mostly known as Deirdre and the vacuum cleaner consuming its own cable) conspired to prevent me trying to see Joe on Thursday or Friday, so I had slightly mixed feelings when I turned up early at Verity's yesterday afternoon and saw Joe standing at the barbecue talking to Max.  No-one else had arrived at that point, so it wasn't until some time later that we had a chance to sit down together.
   "It's been an age since we really had a chance to talk," I said, rather feebly since we'd already discussed the warm weather, the potential winners and losers of the Eurovision contest and whether Max had cooked the chicken thoroughly enough.  But he knew what I meant.
   "I didn't want to cause any trouble.." he said, but the conversation trailed off as one of Verity's charity-circle friends came round with a jug of Pimms, topping up glasses whether they needed it or not.
   "Yes, well, Celeste's room is still available if you wanted to work there, though I don't suppose you need to if Alison's away again..."  I had the distinct feeling that both of us were not quite saying what we really wanted to say, though for my own part, I'm not sure what I really wanted to say anyway.
   "That would great, I'll bring my stuff round on Monday, then, shall I?" Joe was almost too quick in his answer, so perhaps he'd just been waiting for me to make the offer.  "8.30's not too early for you, is it?"
   I never got the chance to say whether it was too early or not, as at that point, Verity appeared abruptly from behind the pergola, said, "Oh, for goodness' sake, you two!" and promptly tripped over a plate of half-eaten crusts and chicken bones on the ground next to me, resulting in her throwing an entire bowl of potato salad into Joe's lap, mayonnaise side down.  Joe stood up in shock, spreading the contents of his lap everywhere, including onto my skirt.
   "Damn!" he said, much the same time as Verity said words to the same effect if less ladylike.  "Sorry about that, I'd better go and get a cloth."
   "Oh, don't worry about that, I'll get one, you stay here," Verity said, winking at me.
   "You've done quite enough for one day," Joe said and headed off rapidly in the direction of the house.
   "Well, he didn't need to be like that about it.  It was an accident, after all!" Verity said, watching him go. 
   "Yes, well, never mind.  I'd better go and put my own stuff in the washing machine," I told her, before she could turn the conversation in another, unwelcome, direction.  "Thanks for the barbecue, it's been lovely."
   I tried to say thank you to Max as well, but he'd clearly overheated standing next to the barbecue all afternoon and drunk too much Pimms, because when I told him I was going home, he put his arm around my waist and tried to persuade me to stay and join in a game of spin the bottle with him.  I'm not optimistic for him and Verity.
   And to top it off, after a rather restless night's sleep, I've discovered I've got a touch of sunburn.  Still, at least the warm weather won't last for long - it's the UK, after all.  And Joe will be round tomorrow.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Returning to what passes for Normal

   Finally, I'm back! I was all set to tell you what happened when I went to see Joe, and all about the local elections, and some other stuff about what's going on, when the OH came back from Japan.
  "Pack your bags, I have to be in Newcastle for the next few days or so, and I can't be in the same country as you and not see you!"
   He's such a romantic...
The next few days turned into the best part of two weeks, and the OH has only just returned to the Far East.  Consequently, I have not been to see Joe yet and I only found out the result of the election by chance.  You will be unastonished to learn that the local independent who was campaigning on the return of the dog licence, mostly by following dog-walkers around with an apparently unending supply of small plastic bags and shouting at them to poop and scoop, was not elected and instead, a new Tory councillor who rejoices in the name Horatio Chamberlain (no surprises there, on both counts.  We are a rural area, after all) will be representing us on the local council.  He doesn't live in this village so I can't tell you much about him, especially since his leaflet was used to clear up an 'accident' that one of the cats had while I was away.  Katy was not very apologetic but then she was a bit of a last resort.  I had phoned Verity to see if she could finally return the favour and feed my invisible cats for me, but she was so vague about when she might be able to do it, that I asked in the post office instead, and Katy was volunteered by her mum, whom I recognised from my work at the school.  Most of the post was still on the front-door mat and the house-plants were all looking a little desperate, so once I've attempted to restore my home to a level of normality, I shall go and see Joe.  And make a hair-appointment.  Some of the insults those folk in Newcastle come up with can be very hurtful!

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Truth about Verity!

After the most recent bombshell, I made sure that I was awake to talk to the OH on Skype when he next called. He was sceptical about the news. "After all, Max was pretty public about his infidelity."
   For those who might have forgotten, he picked the marquee at the village Royal Wedding feast for his display of inappropriate affection, just a year ago. "And didn't you say that Verity had a few flings of her own while she was away over the summer?" Also true, though 'few' may be an understatement. Verity did rather gloss over her activities in the south of France. "You'll probably find they've simply had a meeting to finalise details of selling the house or some other financial thing to do with the divorce."
   I couldn't help but agree with him on this rather disheartening interpretation, but I made a point of checking the various estate agents' windows when I was next in town and couldn't see any sign of Verity's house having gone on the market. And there was no For Sale board outside the house. Eventually, I took the bull by the horns and left a phone message: "Verity, call me, we need to talk."
   Somewhat to my surprise, she did, the following day. And they are back together, as a trial. "Though it's going quite well so far," she admitted. "I don't want to count my chickens or anything, but..." "But after what he did..." I was astonished that she could ignore his behaviour. "Don't worry, I made a point of telling him everything that I did last summer. And I mean, everything." She gave me one of those knowing looks that suggested Max had heard more than I had, and let's face it, I'd heard quite a bit. "So it's not as if I haven't taken my revenge. Quite a lot of it, truth be told." She smirked at the thought of all her revenge and her eyes started to go slightly misty. Who knows who she was thinking about?! I wanted to change the subject before I found out any more snippets concerning how vengeful she had been but I think Verity realised I was rapidly approaching the boundary of my comfort zone. "Anyway, I'd consulted a lawyer and the settlement wasn't going to give me as much as I wanted. This recession is hitting Max where it hurts and the alimony would have just been pathetic."
   "But why didn't you tell me any of this before? And why have you been avoiding me?"
    She didn't deny it. "But you've been so wrapped up in your own things, what with Japan and everything. It's clearly all too much for you - I mean, look at yourself. You've really let yourself go. You've stopped exercising with that lovely looking girl who made you go running last year, you've let your hair go back to that boring mousy colour, judging by your blog you hardly ever go out to yoga or anything anymore, and Joe said.." She stopped abruptly, as though she had said too much.
    "What did Joe say?" I had seen very little of Joe since the OH had lost his previous job and consequently hadn't thought about him much, so I was curious that he had evidently been thinking about me.
    "Just that he hadn't seen you lately," she said airily. Or should that be evasively? "Right, got to go now. We've got an appointment with a marriage counsellor. According to her, I'm still too angry with Max though I always thought he liked that sort of thing. Perhaps some of my new toys are - " "Off you go, then, don't want to make you late," I said hurriedly, interrupting her and practically pushing her out through the door before she told me anything else I didn't want to hear, though realistically I think it was too late. I shall have to drop in on Joe, though.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Toilet Paper Usage and other gems

Well, I'm back to being by myself again now - George stayed for over a week and then Celeste took up the challenge, though she spent a lot of her time catching up with old friends who she hadn't seen for a while and making sure that my Facebook settings and everything else were all up to date.  You might have thought that since George is the computer buff, he would have done that, but no.  Instead, George supervised the acquisition of not one but two rescue cats, who emerge from the hiding places they have discovered when they are fed, but otherwise I see very little of them.  Once they are less photophobic, I might be able to take some pictures, but until then you'll just have to make do with your imagination as to what they look like - which is pretty much what I have to do, too.  But they really are cats, not vampires!
George and Celeste also encouraged me to join in a couple of things in the village despite my reservations.  "You'll get a reputation, always answering the door in your pjs, Mum," Celeste said.  "Two of my friends have mentioned it already!"  I suspect they're more concerned about how it will reflect on them than me, but I thought it probably wouldn't do any harm.  Annie seems to have been remarkably absent of late, always dashing off in the opposite direction when I do see her - perhaps she's heard about the pjs.
Anyway, the first thing I took part in was a Ladies' Night - so no need to feel like the spare wheel at a dinner party, part of the reason I accepted the invitation.  I was a little worried that it was going to be an Anne Summers party in disguise, but it was a group of women who work long days and are therefore too tired to socialise most evenings.  Strictly speaking, I don't fall into that category, but there was a widow who had been included in the group already, so they didn't mind extending the invitation to me aswell.  Considerable quantities of wine were consumed so it was a very merry evening even though I only knew a couple of the women by sight and the rest not at all.  They were all very welcoming despite my dubious status as a busy working woman and I have agreed to attend the next dinner, in a month's time.  Quite a lot of the chat was them catching up with each other and their respective families, so I just listened, but as I get to know them more, perhaps the names will mean more to me.  I did, however, learn that we each use 57 sheets of toilet paper a day.  Yes, fifty-seven, not a typo.  Not sure where that particularly gem came from or how they calculated it, but I can only assume that someone somewhere is eating the stuff. While I haven't counted my usage, I'm pretty certain that it doesn't come anywhere near that!  A couple of the ladies are encouraging me to join the village WI but one thing at a time...
Finally, before I head off to get dressed, when I was walking through the rain to the post office yesterday, I saw Max drive past, apparently with Verity in the car.  I stopped and frowned at them (yes, I know, I should have waved really) and then mentioned it in the post office queue, where I ran into Deirdre, in full disguise still underneath her raincoat and scarf.
"Oh yes, he moved back in with her.  Didn't you know?"
No I did not! Could explain why I haven't seen her lately, though..

Monday, 9 April 2012

Going Solo

It has been a very strange couple of weeks.  I have had sporadic conversations with the OH but the time difference and his work schedule don't make it easy.  Plus, I have taken advantage of his absence to vary my own schedule somewhat, which has made bedtime a flexible concept.  Clearing out cupboards without having to stop to cook dinner for anyone has meant that I have seen midnight and later more times recently than I have since the children were very tiny. 
This has had an additional effect on the rest of the village, who have all been terribly concerned for my well-being while I am alone.  Word seems to have got round everyone I know and most of those I don't, and I have been checked up on by a variety of people on a regular basis. Verity started dropping in on an almost daily basis, and Annie, Jenny and Celia appear to have planned a rota for visiting.  Even Fiona has knocked on the door, though less sympathetically.
"Is it true your husband's left you? I thought he probably would."  For a childminder, she looked very smart, with high heels and a fitted pinstripe suit showing off her figure rather too well, in my opinion. I was wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown and my hair was looking less than glamorous, so the smirk as she peered round me into the chaos of a half-cleaned sideboard full of ornaments was partly deserved.
Because of my strange hours, I have slept through a few of these checks and was woken by hammering on the door on Tuesday when I hadn't responded to the two o'clock visit.  I have now explained....  I have also struggled to keep up with the demand for tea and biscuits so I hope that the novelty of checking up on me will wear off and I can stop trying to think of excuses for not going to dinner with people I hardly know.  I am quite capable and happy cooking for one!
More cheerily, George came home for a visit.  "Can't have you alone over Easter," he said, though I don't see why Easter should be any different from any other time of year.  Perhaps he was just hoping I would buy him an Easter egg (I did).  And tomorrow, he has agreed to come with me to the local animal rescue place to choose a cat.  Celeste hoped I would get a dog, but I really can't be bothered to do all the walking that would necessitate.  In this weather in particular, it's something I can do without.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sayonara, Small Village? You Should Be So Lucky!

You are immediately forgiven for falling off your chair in amazement.  You probably thought *I* had fallen off something, possibly the face of the earth.  But it's simpler than that.  I've been house-hunting.

To be absolutely honest, I've been flat-hunting.  And not only was it not in my Small Village, it wasn't even in this country!  After all his moaning and groaning about being permanently unemployable, the OH was offered another job.  Technically, it required relocating.

"You'll love it," he told me.  "And you'll soon get used to it.  I mean, Japan has an amazing culture and a very active ex-pat community."

Yes, you read that correctly. Japan.

Fortunately, the firm were quite understanding, considering.  I couldn't possibly move from here to Japan, and the OH really didn't want to turn the job down, so they found a compromise, bless them.  A fortnight here, a month there, or thereabouts.  And the OH isn't senior enough to qualify for first class travel yet, so he'll be flying economy every time, until he's earned enough airmiles to upgrade.  So I've spent a large part of the last three weeks in Tokyo, trying to find a suitable flat at a suitable price, and then furnish it appropriately. All easier said than done.  The good thing was it confirmed my suspicion that I do not want to exchange Small Village life for Mega City existence.

George was very encouraging.  "Cool, Dad," was all he said, but for George, that's encouraging.  He's already worked out when he's going to stay and even accepts that he'll have to sleep on the floor.  Celeste was more on my side, identifying problems, some of which have been solved.

"But you don't speak Japanese!" was the first issue.  The OH has been practising with his Rosetta pebbles ever since he put the application in, though there's no-one in the village he can practise with.  And then,

"You can't leave Mum all alone like that!"

I hadn't wanted to say anything because I knew how important it was for him to take the job, but I could have kissed her for saying it for me.  Her indignation was so clearly unprompted that the OH has relented on two points.

Joe is allowed to come back and work here during the day.  "But he must be gone by 6 o'clock," he added.  How that will make a difference, I don't know.  And I haven't asked Joe yet if he wants to work here again.  He's crossed the road to avoid me more than once, I'm sure, since the OH told him to go.

And I'm going to get a cat.  Possibly two.  "But no more than that. Place'll be like a bloody cattery otherwise.  And they'd better be neutered."

I gave him a hug.  He'd just made two fairly large concessions, by his standards.  Verity was less generous.  "And quite right too," she said, when I told her.  "You deserve some company.  You should think about a lodger.  My Italian friend might be interested..."

That might be a step too far.  After all, the OH will be at home *some* of the time.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Before it snowed...

What a good job I took this photo earlier of our nearest pub, where the thatch has been beautifully adorned along the top with a contrasting colour/pattern.  And also, I suppose, what a good job they finished it before the snow started!

  The OH had suggested popping out for a drink after dinner so that he could chat to the landlord about the thatchers - not that we have a thatched roof, you understand, he just likes to know about these things - but since looking out of the window, he has decided that by the time he has wrapped up sufficiently and located his wellies, it will be closing time.  He'll just have to wander round tomorrow when at least it should be light enough to see the drifts!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Excuses excuses!

   Just before I head out to work (!), a couple of small things to make you laugh.
  Firstly, the OH has just asked me how to operate the vacuum cleaner.  Since I'm out so much more, I don't have time to clean the house every day, and he's a bit picky about these things.  We had  - well, not exactly a blistering row, but a mildly pustular one, of which the upshot was that he agreed that while he is not working, he will do some of the vacuuming.  Hence his request.  I don't expect it to happen very often, mind you.

   And the second thing is from last night's writing group.  My villanelle (see last entry) was quite well received and was deemed to constitute a completed 'homework' (we set ourselves tasks to complete between meetings, so that we should all do at least one poem during the month or so).  Other people had done a variety of Christmas poems, family poems, free verse and sonnets.  But Andi had brought nothing. 

   "I did write a poem, honestly!  It was quite good, well, sort of, probably needed a bit of work, but..."

   So what happened to it?

   "The dog ate it.  Really!"

   Really!  And they say children come up with feeble excuses.

Monday, 16 January 2012

All Change!

In case you were wondering why I haven't written a blog for a while, it's because I've been driven out of the house.  Now I know why so many women are out jogging/shopping/volunteering at the weekends - it's because their menfolk are cluttering up the family home so they need to escape.
It may sound a little harsh, but you should know I do feel bad for my OH, who has suffered from his company's latest rif - no, not a musical production but a Reduction In Force.  Financially he's had a reasonable pay-off, but emotionally obviously he is stunned.  Which means he's spending a lot of time around the house, either bemoaning the state of the universe or grumping about how he'll never get another job ever.  This is patent rubbish as he has already had two phone-calls trying to arrange interviews, but in the meantime I have chosen to go and help out again at the local school.  One of the teachers is Felicity's sister-in-law and knows about the blog, so I have been forbidden from writing anything at all about what goes on there, under threat of the child protection act, but since there's little of interest about the children themselves (their parents are another matter!) it's not a problem.
The OH also threw Joe out.  Well, not exactly threw him out, but suggested that if he was going to use the room on a regular basis, he should pay rent.  This is completely unreasonable in my opinion as we're not using it ourselves, but when you've just been made redundant, I suppose allowances have to be made for unreasonable behaviour.
"I'd pack up for now and then, if you want to come back when he's calmed down, I'll let you know," I told Joe, who just smiled weakly without answering one way or another.  Though there was a large bouquet of flowers delivered the following day with a simple 'Thanks' written on the note, which can't have come from anyone else.
In other news, one of my presents at Christmas was from David, in the poetry group, which was very sweet of him, and was the Stephen Fry book, 'The Ode Less Travelled'.  I have been trying to follow it properly - Fry gives very specific instructions - but I was inspired by one of the comments in the introduction to write the following villanelle.  Let me know if you like it!

On Writing Poetry (with thanks to Stephen Fry!)

I have no inkling how to start,
And listen to these words in vain:
"Technique is just the Greek for art."

The moment when true lovers part,
A wartime death, a drop of rain -
I have no inkling how to start.

I seek the words to set apart
A poem sure to bring me fame,
With no technique to make it art.

An idea's there within my heart;
Thesauruses must take the strain
For I've no inkling how to start

And clogged up rhyme, and counterpart
Strict rhythm, make themselves the bane
Of technique, just the Greek for art!

Heroic couplets won't impart
Enough to fool my struggling brain.
I have no inkling how to start
And technique's all just Greek for art.