Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How To Be A Wife.

September 2nd 1995

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary. Only 19 years? I hear you say. Yes, but that’s 19 years married, 29 years together. Next year will be a big one for us: twenty years married and thirty years together. Thirty years! As Husband says, you get less for murder. We will have to have a party. Want to come? You’re all invited.

So, with 19 years under our belts, what is the secret of happily married life? I have no idea because I only have this marriage to draw on. Ha Ha. No, really, there must be something that makes it work, apart from sheer laziness on our parts to do anything except stay together. 

Well, for a start, the fact that we have been together for so long becomes one of the reasons we stay together. You know, we must be doing something right, look, we’re still here. I can’t speak for Husband (well I can actually, I do it all the time) but I can’t imagine NOT being married to him. 

Somehow, despite the rather random way we got together (I'll come to that) and the fact that we have virtually nothing in common (and I'll come to that too), we have made a life together and, more importantly, a happy family unit that feels like a solid thing. I cannot imagine wanting to break or re-form that unit into anything else for anything in the world. I know people do it all the time, they meet new people and they move on and their families become ‘blended’ (horrible word) and they seem happy about it, for the most part, and I don’t want to tempt fate or anything, I remember Paula Yates wrote a book about how to make a marriage work when she was with Bob Geldoff, and look what happened to her. But that's it in a nutshell for me. We've created something which ain't broke after all these years, so let's not try and fix it. Not very romantic, but apparently people who take a more pragmatic view are more likely to see their relationships succeed than those looking for everything to be perfect with ‘the one’, that and having a joint bank account or something.

But one thing I can attribute our success to is Husband's helpfulness. Our marriage may have unexpectedly morphed into a 1950s cliche somewhere along the line, with me at home putting dinner on the table and him bringing in the bacon, or the biggest slice of it, but his willingness to roll up his sleeves the minute he gets in from work, helping with all things domestic, from loading the dishwasher (I think it's true that men who do this get more sex) to picking up a child from tennis, has made him deeply loveable and - I think this bit is his strategy - apparently irreplaceable. Anyway, enough gushing, here are a few ways in which Husband and I are completely different. 

We have never read the same book, except maybe The Diary of a Nobody, and possibly Frankenstein. He reads a lot, probably more than me, but mostly history and other stuff written by men, and French. We don’t like the same music either, except maybe for a few classical things. He has very unusual taste, American R & B, pre-Fifties a lot of it, and a vast knowledge of classical music. He and the boys hog the devices that make music happen in this house, and they know how to get them to work, so I don't get much of a look in. I love The Beatles, Husband doesn’t, to me this is nothing short of tragic.

I like art, going to art galleries, interiors, design, the theatre, films. I especially love films. I like TV and fashion and Italy and romance and candlelight and hand-painted tableware and dinner parties and friends and chatting and socialising and Radio 4 and The Guardian and organising stuff and gardening and holidays and writing. Mmm.

Husband doesn’t like any of that much. He hates films. He doesn’t really watch TV. He would never go on Facebook or Twitter let alone blog, I don't even think he's on LinkedIn. He’s not interested in interiors or fashion, although he knows what he likes. He does like architecture and Italy, I suppose. He’s happy to travel in Europe, particularly western and central Europe but has no desire to go further afield. He is crazy about his retro push bike (it’s a Pashley Guv'nor, don’t ask me), so much so that I find him chatting to complete strangers on online forums about hubs and sprockets - now if it was porn I would understand it.

We met at a student house party in Norwich in 1985. I had just split up with my boyfriend from home, everyone was ‘getting off’ with someone except me, my friend Manesh said, “Is there no one here you fancy, Liz?” and I looked around and saw a guy leading a group of wide-eyed freshers in his game of ‘let’s see if we can keep ourselves up off the floor’ in a narrow corridor off the kitchen. They all had their feet on one wall and their backs on another and now I come to think about it this is exactly the sort of silly, immature, pointless thing that girls looking for nice boys should be wary of. It smacked of a lack of seriousness, it foretold of boy-children who would get up to the same sort of shenanigans in years to come, it was, almost literally, the writing on the wall. And I chose to ignore it because he had a great Nick Kamen quiff.

in 1985, shortly after we met

He was a first year French student and I was second year English Literature and Film Studies student, which makes me sound like a cradle-snatcher when I wasn’t because he had taken several years off before coming to UEA, living an exotic independent life. Not travelling around South America as youngsters do nowadays or building huts for destitute villagers in Borneo, but bunking down in a high-rise block of flats in Catford with a Jive and Rockabilly DJ called Rohan, learning how to perfect the aforementioned quiff. In my defence this was the 80s. Plus he had a south London accent and rather uncouth manners and was therefore the antithesis of what my mother would have hoped for, or so I thought at the time, which was all that mattered. 

I was disappointed to later learn that he’d gone to a posh boarding school. I very nearly had to ditch the whole project for this reason, since it didn’t fit with my high-minded socialist principles. But luckily it turned out he went on a full scholarship because he was penniless and came from a broken home. Hooray.

Anyway, that’s it. That was 29 years ago this Autumn. We have been together ever since. We have a few things in common. We are both homebodies, we love our house. We also love to cook and eat and drink, family meals are a big thing for us. We love to stay in watching The Great British Bake Off or Strictly Come Dancing, which I think surprises Husband even more than it does me. We love London, and parks and the countryside, and walking in all of them. We like to read newspapers, even if they are not the same ones. Family life is everything. We are both devoted to our three boys and would do anything and everything for them, and often, it seems, we do.

And today we're off out for some lunch together in Chelsea, where Husband is currently working. If it feels a long way from Norwich in 1985, that's because it is.

Love E x

going to a 40th

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