Monday, June 29, 2009

A Life Reclaimed? - a misnomer

It is 11 months since circumstances made it imperative that I took a deep breath, and unceremoniously chucked out the philandering husband.

Was this a wise move? Oh yes, but a life reclaimed? Not yet.

Unravelling a 43 year old relationship is not easy. One could say that it had been unravelling for quite some time, but human nature dictates that there is always an excuse for not taking that final decision. Instinct tells you that your partner is being serially unfaithful but somehow, you do not want to admit it to yourself. This time, the woman concerned pulled the plug by texting my husband in our hotel room in France, whilst we were away on a trip to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary! We drove straight home across France, ansd out he went within ten minutes of arriving home. Bin bags of his belongings were dumped on her drive within days and boy, what a catharthis. So - in a way I owe a debt of gratitude to her. The philandering husband, like all cowards, tried to say that there was nothing in it, and he had not intended to leave me for her. Oh well, he has got her now, and I almost hug myself because she is a grasping slapper, a serial targetter of marriages, twice married herself,with an appalling reputation, and she thinks my husband is a rich entrepreneur, but of course, he is not, as she will find out when the divorce is finalised. Oh joy - they deserve each other.

Now - how do I reclaim my life?

One of the few present benefits is tucking myself up in my large bed each night, pile of books and the Daily Telegraph crossword beside me, and my two dogs curled up like the Annie Tempest cartoon, "Shall I put another dog on the bed?"

Another joy is the peace, and the tidy house and the second glass of wine without the comment "Are you sure you need another glass of wine?" And - the weight loss! Two and a half stone! And the clothes - I have so many - because everything fits me. A good thing - because there will never now be any money for new ones. Actually, I don't care.

My social life is quite different, but, thanks to close friends, I am scooped up from time to time to do jolly things, if not the things I used to do. Dinner parties, drinks parties, parties in general are a little thin on the ground, and I miss the foreign travel and the exotic holidays. But, hey, the English summer, especially at the present time, is idyllic. And I am slowly unfolding.

There is a new life out there and I will slowly find it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A la recherche du temps perdu

A dangerous route to go down. I met my philandering husband in 1965. I was 19. Today that would be considered young. Then, we seemed more mature - or maybe a weird mixture of young, and old before our time.

London was a small place back then - everyone you met had been to boarding school, secretarial college, finishing school, the Cordon Bleu Cookery School, or Grenoble, which is where my husband went after leaving school,not bright enough for an English University! Oh, those were the days. What a simple life. None of us had any expectations, no ambition. A lot of my friends married almost straight from school. I was a bridesmaid three times - terrible outfits, hyacinth blue crackly nylon, mustard velvet, turquoise velvet. Oh dear, oh dear. No argument, no choice, and you paid! But - life was fun - I had fun with the husband to be. I really fell for him - but the stage was set. He was never to be trusted, and he broke my heart.

Yes we had such fun, and we seemed to be best friends. I look back fondly to the mid-sixties - life was changing and our parents could only look on quizzically and wonder what had happened! They never had the freedom, the choice and how lucky we were to be in at the beginning of it all. Mary Quant in the Kings Road, Vidal Sassoon, yes, I had the geometric haircut, Biba in Abingdon Road. Hardly anyone had a car - unless they borrowed the parents' mini, and the train from Paddington to Leamington Spa on a Friday night was full of chums going back to Warwickshire for the weekend. Oh nostalgia.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Journey through Pakistan

Yesterday afternoon whilst walking Maud and Billy, my thoughts turned to the troubles in Pakistan, and I remembered a wonderful trip we took there three years ago, and I felt so sad thinking of all the turmoil within the country now, and how possibly some of the places we visited would be off the tourist trail for many years to come.

We drove in a 1969 MGB 3A from Ialamabad to Calcutta, via Peshawar, the Khyber Pass, Lahore, Amritsar, along the Indian Hill Stations, starting with Shimla, to Rishikesh, into Nepal to Pokhara to Kathmandu, to Darjeeling, and down to Calcutta. There were 18 cars, all old models, some Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, a Corvette, a DB4 and I can't remember the rest! It was the most wonderful trip, Pakistan particularly really got under my skin. It is a beautiful country, a country of contrasts, in some places almost biblical, out in the countryside there was little mechanisation and it seemed as if nothing had changed for thousands of years. Everyone was so charming to us and even right out in the wilds, we never felt threatened or unsafe. We went up the Khyber Pass on a steam train, which was an amazing experience, and the scenes were so like the pictures we see now on the television where they are fighting the Taliban. We went right up to the border with Afghanistan, and saw the lorries snaking along the mountain passes into that country. We visited a manned fort near he border, where the army kept watch and now I realise that probably noone will be allowed to do that again. The scenery was staggerigly wild and beautiful, like nothing I had seen before. I shall always remember the amazing hospitality, the delicious food, the beauty of the countryside and feel sad for this wonderful country and its uncertain future.

I think the dogs were annoyed with me being pre-occupied with my thoughts, and suddenly created a diversion. With a great flapping of wings, a heron rose out of the stream by our field, and the dogs took off after it. Even though it became airborne in slow motion, they had no hope of catching it. No walk is complete without the appearance of some amazing birdlife. We have herons, green woodpeckers, jays, and buzzards - it is truly paradise around here. I do feel so lucky to live here.

I think it is time now for a gin and tonic, a dish of olives and Andy Murray playing at Wimbledon. It is another glorious summer evening.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kind friends

Last night I had a fun supper party. We ate at a long table on the terrace outside the kitchen, it was a beautiful evening, one of those rare evenings when it was still warm at 10 o'clock.

I did not cook anything fom the Anna del Conte book I mentioned the other day - it is a visual feast and a joy to read and look at but I chose otherwise. We had jugs of icy cold Pimms, and a plateful of silvery anchovies, lumps of buffalo mozzarella, tiny little black olives, some seafood salad,halved sweet little piccolo tomatoes, and marinated artichoke hearts, all piled on a large plate, and which we speared to pop into our mouths as we drank our Pimms. Yum-yum. Then, leg of English lamb, smeared with a paste of anchovies, rosemary, garlic and butter, simply roasted. Pudding was home-made strawberry ice-cream, made with large intense dark red English strawberries, together with fresh raspberries. I put a huge bowl of the ice-cream on the table, and everyone just dug in and kept having seconds, and there wasn't a scrap left. All washed down with Cotes de provence rose. Who says the older generation do not know how to enjoy themselves?

I looked round the table - there were 7 of us, and I realised they were such good friends, and how kind they had been to me over the past 11 months. I wish I had taken a photograph of them all. It was perfect - white starched tablecloth, candle lamps, bowl of dark red roses in the middle, the murmur of conversation, and a quiet appreciation of the food. Kind friends enjoying themselves in my garden. Life is definitely tough at the moment, but there are moments when it is possible to see that life is a progression, and what went before was just that, and now life must go on. Before dinner, the husband of one of my friends came across the lane and put out the garden chairs for me and prepared the Pimms, and after dinner my friends cleared up and did the washing up for me. I am lucky to have friends such as these.

It is another beautiful day and my thoughts are still full of Violet - Billy is still disconsolate and stays close to me - Maud is still protecting him - animals are incredibly sensitive. We all snuggled up in bed together last night, and in the early hours I lay in bed, with the window wide open listening to the sounds of the countryside, and musing on my life and what the future holds. So many thoughts, so many regrets, so many hopes for the future.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Life goes on

Life goes on - I have been on my own for nearly a year now, and until the tragedy of Violet's accident I was beginning to think I was coping rather well. But coping means dealing with everything that life throws at you.

The house seems in mourning - funny how a much loved animal leaves a presence even after death. Billy is inconsolable most of the time - but because he is still only a very young dog, he seems suddenly to forget to be sad and charges after a fly or chases his tail. When I played tennis this morning as I usually do every Monday morning, he sat mournfully by the court most of the time, until he forgot to be sad again and charged off. Animals are a joy and a comfort.

I am sitting in my kitchen with the French windows open, Wimbledon on the television,
it is a quintessential English summer evening in the depths of the countryside, and it is difficult to be sad for long. I am actually rather enjoying the single life -I am musing over a wonderful book my daughter brought back from New York for me, called the Painter, the Cook and the Art of Cucina by Anna Del Conte and Val Archer, and wondering what I shall cook tomorrow evening when friends come for supper.

There is a large bowlful of my favourite scented roses from my garden in front of me, Souvenir du Docteur Jamain and Madame Alfred Carriere - a glass of Cotes de Provence rose at my elbow - perfection really. This really is a new beginning for me after 43 years of a marriage that was less than perfect, but which produced two quite wonderful daughters, feisty, independent, beautiful, intelligent and a total joy. I am so proud of both of them.

Wish me luck

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday afternoon

I am going to garden today - the garden is a little wild, but looks amazing. All the planting I did 4 years ago before my 60th birthday party, has suddenly exploded, the roses are rambling everywhere, there is clematis climbing through everything, and the peonies are absolutely huge and flopping everywhere. It looks absolutely divine. There are foxgloves and love in the mist, and masses of hardy geraniums - I just love it.

A real, romantic, slightly overblown, English garden. This house and garden give me so much pleasure, it almost hurts, and I just cannot bear the thought of losing it. I tell myself that Violet had a wonderful life here, and that is some consolation.

Yesterday I took the dogs for a long walk, slightly varying the usual route so as not to get too upset and Billy chased a rabbit and almost caught it - stopped by a metal five bar gate that he couldn't get through! I thought, 'Oh, if that had been Vi she would have caught it before the gate.'

But - it is the first time he has properly chased one, so he is following in his darling mummy's footsteps. And, do you know something? I realised that even if Vi had lived, she would have had a very poor quality of life. She would have never have been able to go for lovely long walks, or chase rabbits, or foxes. I did the right thing, however much it hurts.

Let's hope that life picks up from now on - I am going to get the B & B up and running as quickly as possible. Shane is coming this week to spend a day mending catches, moving garden furniture and helping me get the loggia dining area up and running, and his electrician friend is coming to sort out all the broken patio lights, light switches, security lights, socket outlets, etc. so things are moving. I just need to take a deep breath and try to move on.

The birdsong is still amazing - it is a requiem for Violet.

Life without Violet

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning - so peaceful, birds singing and I am alone with my thoughts.

I went over to see the C’s at the last minute for supper last night, and they invited Maud (my Jack Russell) and Billy (my younger Whippet) as well. It is quite strange - Billy has always hated the car but since Vi (his mother) died he doesn't seem to mind it at all. Maybe he just doesn't want to be left behind.

The dogs were so sweet, I took one of the sheepy beds and they just settled in it together all snuggly, and behaved beautifully. Just like Maud used to do with Violet when Bertie our Golden Retriever died. Maud is truly the matriarch. Billy is very depressed, he keeps going into the garage where I left Violet in her lovely doggy coffin before we buried her. He wanders round, to all her favourite places, and flops down for a while. He is not at all happy. He cuddles up to me in bed and won't let me out of his sight.

I think we all have broken hearts.

And Maud doesn't bark any more, she just whines if she hears something. As if she doesn't want to upset me I cannot describe to you how unhappy I am, life is so cruel.

SF came round early evening yesterday with some lovely flowers - she is so sweet, I never saw anything of her when your father was around, but see her quite a bit now. She is very straight down the line, and i find that very refreshing - everything she says to me makes me think,and her advice is spot on. She thinks I should get a puppy, not to replace Vi, but to give the dogs and me something to focus on so we can move on. As Maud is 14 next birthday, I really do not want Billy to find himself suddenly alone.

A Life Less Ordinary

My beloved whippet Violet was put to sleep this morning. Shane came this afternoon and buried Violet for me under one of the willow trees by the stream. Molly put a posy of roses, pinks, canterbury bells and alchemilla on the grave. Violet looked so peaceful and I couldn't believe that she had been so ill. It will take me a long time to get over this. I loved Violet so much - she was the sweetrest gentlest dog, and had three weeks of misery. A chain of events that could have all been avoided. It is an absolute tragedy.