Tuesday, 31 August 2010

What goes on behind closed doors

Can you tell I am back at work - blogging ceases abruptly?

So... you know those questions - 'what would you do if you were invisible for the day?' and people say funny stuff like 'hide in Brad Pitt's trousers' or 'rob a bank' blah blah - well mine is quite simple: I would spy on married couples and see what really goes on behind closed doors...

Does that make me freaky or creepy? I make no apologies. Husband and I had some corking rows over the weekend - one culminated in him punching a crack in a door. I am not faultless at all - at the moment my hormones are so shot I am behaving like a teenage girl with PMT - and yet we had friends coming for lunch on Sunday - so we had to plaster on our 'we are happy and normal and would you like more dip?' faces and pretend we liked each other. By the end of the meal, we actually did. Those 'fake it til you make it' rules really work. I was a bit emotional about it all yesterday - full of woe and anger - but I managed to dilute it into a civil email and Husband replied and now we have joint 'task lists' and promises of more help round the house (acts of service - HIM) and less nagging/acting deranged (ME).

He arrived home just as I hit the hay and planted some impressive kisses on me. That isn't a euphemism for hot sex - I am after all a beached whale at the moment, with a chest bigger than Manhattan - the man would have to don a helmet and some climbing hooks in order to scale them/me, I genuinely mean he gave me some lovely affection. Underrated it is.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about other couples - and how they juggle full time jobs and kids and childcare and household bills and money and chores and stress and in-laws and still enjoy each other's company? Still belly laugh at the end of the day? I don't mean celebs - their lives aren't really goverened by the same rules that we have to abide to - and therefore who knows what is stage managed/a lavendar marriage/even exists? Boring. I'm talkin' regular folk - like you and me.

Husband and my's problem isn't that we have nothing to say to each other and the marriage is stale - it is that we so rarely get time together. We've had 2 dates recently - both were fab. One was a ridiculous 45 min drive to and from, the nearest cinema showing an Argentinian film that I wanted to see (The Secret In Their Eyes - good by the way) - I booked us a comfy sofa with cushions - (god I LOVE the Everyman Hampstead cinema, why didn't I go more when I lived 15 mins walk from it for 7 years???)and Husband was thrilled to discover it offered waiter service and he was able to drink wine throughout. I supped tea and ate chocolate covered honeycomb. Bliss. The other date was a brilliant meal at a cosy little country gastropub where I drank a hearty glass of red and then suffered heartburn until 3am. But it was worth it.

I digress. I just wonder how folk still want to tear each others clothes off after their kid(s) have just crapped their pants, or their mother-in-law is having a bath in the next room? Or how they decide who's turn it is to take out the bin/do the food shop/clean the bathroom... or who pays what? There is so much that people never say. They show the world that everything is just rosy in their garden and then out of the blue announce they are splitting up. 'I never saw that coming' you'll say, in shock. But they never let you know. It is terribly British to act like everything is fine, even when it isn't. And maybe things are fine most of the time - but what happens when they're not? Ohhh it's interesting isn't it? The taboos of marriage, the secrets we must never tell. The relationship we show the world and the one we have in private. Thing that fascinates me most, is as Husband pointed out yesterday - that it isn't easy, but it is how you get through the hard times that defines how strong your marriage is - that commitment to make it work, to try your best, otherwise what was the point?

It is all so easy when you first date, can't keep your hands off each other, live on air and the butterflies in your stomach. Getting engaged, planning a wedding, setting up a life together. Nothing can prepare you for kids and how much your lives change post birth.... So staying together - is it simply luck? That the person you fancied across that crowded bar, who gave you 5 orgasms in an evening, who took you to Paris, who charmed your Mother, who bought you flowers and got on one knee and all the rest, is still as amazing 10 plus years on. Can still light up a room when they walk into it. Still make you feel a bit mushy. Still make you smile. How do you ever know in that sweaty packed bar, that he's a good bet and you'll make it through all those rites of passage, all that life throws at you. You don't, you take a chance and suddenly, here you are - 2.4 kids and a 3 bed semi. I'm just curious how you got there and why you stay.

I know why I do. And it isn't because I got an enormous bunch of lillies last week and some impressive kisses. But the reasons why I do - well, find that invisibility cloak and you can find out.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Breaking the ties

So I'm back on the subject of friendships - because I find myself in a dilemma, well, in a place I'm not used to being. I am being a bad friend.

Let me explain: imagine you had a friend, a good friend who you've known for years - and they are on a destructive path. You can see it, their other friends can see it, but they can't. They are blind to it. They are consumed by their passion and their whole lives have started to focus around this one thing. This one thing that you know aint good for them. You've told them - of course you have, as you are a good friend, and you're honest, so you've told them that it all will end in tears and no matter how much you advise them - they don't want to know. To the point where you have agreed not to talk about it. Which makes talking to this friend, well damn hard. Because this friend lies to themselves as well as you. They pretend that the paths they are taking are for other reasons, not the fact that they are in love with a boy who doesn't love them back. So every time this friend calls, you have to paint on happy face and try and chat around inane subjects until your friend inevitably brings it round to her love life and - you don't want to hear it. Because you almost feel embarrassed for her - for the fool she is making of herself, and the hurt that will follow. You'd stake your life on it. Because no man ever takes a year to make up his mind about whether or not he likes a girl. He is either into you, or he aint. And if he aint - everything else is him stringing you along until something better comes along - as he has done before, and will do again. So anyway, you think it is almost better not to talk to this friend until she comes out of this destructive phase, but does that make you a bad friend?

I'm a honest person. Husband says he can tell within 30 seconds of introducing me to someone whether or not I like them. My every thought is written over my face - I am a crap liar. As you can tell from my blog - I lay it all on the line - what you see is what you get. So I find it virtually impossible to talk to this friend - because I feel our every conversation is a lie. And I watch as she obsesses over how thin she can get, how blonde, how botoxed, etc - all in a bid to win this man and I wonder where the strong feisty women who danced to her own tune has gone? And then I wonder - have we outgrown each other, is the friendship cemented in our 20s simply not there in our 30s? And if so what to do?

Thing is I've felt the cold winds of being ousted from a friendship myself - this year in fact: a friend went through an incredibly bad time - and I tried to be there, to support as best as could, even when there was nothing I could say. I understood she needed time out - she didn't want to talk on the phone or meet up etc But then it turned out she was talking to people about how she was feeling - just not me. She was meeting folk for lunch or visiting their houses, just not wanting to spend any time with me. So I took the hint - and have withdrawn myself from attempting to see this person - even though I'm still not really sure what I've done. Maybe nothing - maybe they simply outgrew me.

Sometimes it comes as a shock: I met a girl at Uni - she was sobbing over the halls of residence pay phone (in the days before mobile phones when we used to stand with pockets weighed down with 10ps or BT cards with 10 units on them) and I took pity on her, chatting through her issues. That's what I then became - her shoulder to cry on. And boy did she weep - nothing was ever right in her life no matter what she did. Flatmates used to see me after an hours chat with this girl and know immediately who I'd been talking to - they could tell in my heavy step and sullen face. This girl brought everyone down - but still I persevered - always there for her, after all, she had no one else. Plus she was kind and full of wisdom and on the rare occasions that she smiled, could be fun. Then one day (about 5 or so years into our friendship when she was living in Scotland and I had managed to get work in TV in London) she rang and told me she was off to LA for a holiday. We chatted as normal and I wished her well. I never heard from her again. I called her parents, desperately worried that something had happened to her and they assured me she was fine but were somehow avoided giving me her address or phone number. I found out later she had gone to LA following a boy who had no interest in her and she lived in her car for a bit... After that who knows? For a while I was so angry - she had just deserted our friendship - just walked out on it without telling me why, or even giving me the chance to ask what was wrong... She often compared herself to aloof celebs who trusted no one - or suddenly cut themselves off from friendships to 'protect' themselves. I realised that is exactly what she had done - cut me off, because maybe I got too close. As the months wore on I stopped caring - friends come and go from your life and to not have to spend hours propping her up while she wept felt a huge relief. A weight was lifted and I began to realise that she never wanted advice or help - she just wanted to be miserable. Thing is, I didn't. Her ditching our friendship - well things happen for a reason and all that...

Lots of amazing women read my blog and I wonder if any of you guys have ever ended a friendship, been a bad friend, outgrown a mate, let a once rock solid friendship go? In these times - were we don't live near our folks and rely more and more on friendships to be like family, when we invest so much time and energy into these bonds, perhaps they are the most complicated relationships in our lives: rife with politics, jealousies, petty feuds and competitiveness. But when they are good - is there anything better than time with your girls? Belly laughter, finishing each others' sentences and shared jokes.

The question is, when ever is the time to let the ties go?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Back from the wilderness

I am back from the wilderness - literally rather than emotionally speaking. Sproglet and I were on our holidays of sorts - we came to York to visit my Aunt and Uncle and from there we went to the middle of nowhere - to my cousin's holiday home: a cute cottagey place, all Yorkshire stone walls and wooden beams, odd shaped rooms and creaky floorboards. Set in the middle of a remote village which has a pub and... that is it. No phone signal, no Internet, no satellite tv and not even a working landline. I kept imagining the villagers in the pub would remind us to 'stick to the paths and beware of the moors' or the like.

I'd come prepared - two books, laptop to write and DVDs for Sproglet. The plan was my Aunt would stay over and then return to civilisation, leaving Sproglet, my cousin and her baby and I to... well, do what exactly? Baby's have routines which meant our activities would be curtailed; the weather was grey and cloudy at best and apart from getting hammered at the pub (hardly, with Sproglet and the small matter that I am preggers) there wasn't much else to do. I unpacked in my gorgeous big room and privately worried about the unfolding hours, let alone days. In truth the place would be perfect as a writer's retreat - but not to entertain an energetic 4 year old who wanted to do more than touch the local pony and kick a ball around.

Then a miracle happened: Sproglet asked for a tablet. I normally give him a small pink pill before any long car journeys as in the past we have had a grim vomit moment where an irate taxi driver made us feel like we brought the plague to his rusty 4 year old cortina, rather than a bit of spew on an ancient kid's car seat. Anyway, he asked for a tablet and I pointed out we weren't getting in the car (sadly) and then he projectile vomited everywhere - on me, the carpet, the sofa, cushions etc. A great aim. I was soaking - even my pants. Once he was attended to and I was stripped, he lay on the sofa with a bucket next to him. We convinced ourselves it was a blip, and even tried to suggest some bland pasta but the mere sight caused The Exorcist part 2. Not such a blip then. A bugfest. All was quiet as we tried to munch through lasagne - but then we heard a small voice from the sofa, 'there is some poo in my pants.' Not some. Lots. The squits had hit.

Sproglet was showered and cleaned and cuddled and bedded and storied and then he spewed some more. Clean sheets unloaded, his face washed, etc etc. We were shattered. So was he. He fell into a blissful slumber and I tried to contain my glee - not at his suffering, but at the fact that life in the wilderness with a projectile child was looking less appealing to my nervous cousin, who was worried her baby would get it. I was kind of hoping that at 5 months preggers I wasn't going to go through the 2 hour master detox myself, but no one mentioned this.

Although Sproglet slept peacefully that night and awoke to eat a breakfast normally reserved for wrestling athletes in it's size - my cuz was still concerned and suggested we all head back to my Aunt's. Hurrah! After a meal at the pub - portions the size of a pig's head - honestly oop north they like their grub - we headed back to York. I felt like kissing the wet ground.

York was fun - we took Sproglet to a beach about an hour away and in true British summer weather we paddled in a freezing sea, ate chips in the rain (damn good they were - all crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle) and ate our picnic in the car while the winds blew up a storm outside. I took him to the movies, to town, to the park and I got an afternoon to write when my Aunt and Uncle kindly took him to an adventure playground - he had his first encounter with a nettle and is still mildly horrified at the thought of a run in again with such a vicious plant.

Then we came home. The very next day I went back to work. The old butterflies were buzzing around my stomach - can I still do it? Will my pregnancy brain get in the way of how to tell a story? Will it be just too weird?

No - it was too wonderful. I honestly was so happy to see all the folk that I had missed so much - to gossip, to gather to eat cake at 4pm to celebrate someone's b'day, to stand around the monitors discussing whether or not the new actor on the show is shaggable, to complain about all the usual politics of the place - it felt like I'd never left - in a good way. I have a spring in my heffer step and a smile on my face. It feels great to be in a team again. To have my day enriched by a belly laugh and to challenge my mind at how to make a damn script work. Perhaps because I know it isn't forever that I can relish it all the more. Appreciate it for the time I have - and deep down to know that the usual responsibilities of the job are halved, simply because I am only covering one block of scripts, instead of the usual 3.

It's only for another 6 weeks - which is ok. It feels like a last hoorah. Will I feel sad when I leave again? Probably. It isn't the job - it's the people. As commenters said - my truck load of chicken arrived. And it is prime breast, in a tasty buttery skin with a memorable tarragon/lemon flavour - the best that one could hope for.