Sunday, 2 August 2009

plum jam

Back again in the bloom-adorned haven of Grandparents' Kentish garden - and, thank God, finally an English summer day to be proud of, despite all the cardigans and wellington boots I'd packed for the kids. Clever Granny (my mother, she of computer programming and near-photographic memory and 8 languagues) has taken my 5-year-old to the local Airforce museum where this weekend a special display of military vehicles and aircraft is being held. As usual, he is no doubt astounding all within earshot by cataloguing the specs of his favourites: amongst others, Mig, F-22, Nighthawk, Jaguar, even the first world war Sopwith Camel, he knows them all: at another Aircraft Museum (in Brussels) with over 100 planes, he walked around recognising most of the aircraft by sight before we'd even approached the information boards. "Such a leedle boy, mais quelle information!" gasped one of the staff. A discussion with an elderly British tourist didn't fail to dent his confidence: "Well, I mistook the Blenheim for the Lancaster, but now I know the Lancaster's got 4 engines instead of 2", mused my boy.

Later on, Clever Granny and her charge return. He's all excited about having sat in a cockpit and a simulator (and probably a combination of the two, what would I know?) and the difference between joy stick and fly-by-wire (?). He runs off to draw and document everything he's seen.

My 3-year-old daughter is busy with Grumpy Grandpa (who is NEVER grumpy with his granddaughter, who thinks he's a King) setting up a shop, painting abstract pictures and putting on dance shows. Grumpy Grandpa and little Miss (little Miss Prima Donna, beautiful, stubborn, get-away-with-everything-cute and get-my-own-way-by-any-means miss) are a match made in baby-sitting heaven. They both give each other the full attention they each crave with no-one to curtail or nag: she's his little Princess and he's the bees knees, happily reciprocatingly bolstering up egos all day long. Result: you can leave them contentedly playing for hours.

My husband sits on the periphery of all this activity, like a spare wheel, and with my second-hand cold virus, reading the Sports section of the paper. I bring him a coffee, thinking guiltily that he looks rather redundant and deciding, on a whim, that a bit of wifely attention might help. He lifts up an empty mug with murky residue sat beside him on the carpet. "Did you ask if I wanted one?" he enquires. "I just made one in the kitchen for myself. Didn't you see?"

I give him the mug, saucer and piece of fruit cake anyway. With a nod like, well whatever, eat/Drink it, it can't harm you (AT LEAST I BROUGHT YOU SOMETHING).

Lunch over, the kids are still busy, involved with Grandparents and drawings. My husband's standing alone in the garden with a teacup, looking thoughtful and dishevelled. He enjoys being at my parents' house for the pure relaxation it entails, usually watching sport, reading or sleeping while everyone else's occupied with other stuff. No nagging either, for once.

I walk up to him. I too feel more relaxed here. At home we meet early morning and late evening, too tired to talk except about the kids or work. Weekends back in city life are marred by chores and errands. Married life suffers. Parallel lives, work and kids, are our standard. Seem to be our fate. I know that we're both philosophical about reality, but the partnership, as it once was, no doubt suffers (I don't even, you see, dare say "romance"...)

I reach up and give my husband a cheeky kiss on the cheek. He looks at me without changing expression. A statue. I want to show him the plum trees down the end of the garden, which feed Clever Granny's super plum jam production. My husband likes the concept of grow-your-own. And he loves the plum jam. So: "Come!" I say, and link my arm into his reluctant one. "Come for a walk down the garden with me!"

My husband doesn't move. He looks at me, unimpressed. "Why?" "What?" he asks, rather in a monotone. I am unaffected. "Come! Let me take you for a little walk down the garden path!" I joke, jolly, with cheeky undertones. He looks at me. He's unimpressed. Or by the undertone. I think: "That's marriage for you." (And not too bothered. Used to it. I gave up living my life for others long ago).

He comes nevertheless, meekly or else resignedly, to look at the plum trees.
"I've seen them already" he says...."But what a lot of plums!" he adds, as an afterthought, impressed nonetheless.

"Look at how the plums are this beautiful matte lilac and when you rub them they turn shiny and dark purple?" I spout, fascinated. The miracle of nature never ceases to amaze me.

"I know", he says.

There's such a difference in enthusiasm between the children and their father. I wonder if it's age, or marriage, that does it. I shrug it off. As I've said, parallel lives. Parallel lives. I make myself happy in life. Make myself happy.


  1. But if you'd been taking him to see the Test Match...!

  2. The Dotterel, you are very astute for a small brown bird. Or perhaps not - the male of which species 'incubates the eggs and rears the chicks'...ah haaa....

    As regarding the test match, well, One word: Yep! (ditto or substitute any sport)... I do fully empathise, of course. But still.

  3. Hmmmm . . . You melancholy husband reminds me a bit of T.S. Eliot's "Profrock."

    I have known them all already, known them all --
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.

    Been there, done that; the life of chronic illness and pain. I keep trying; hopefully not too trying.

    I hope he becomes more lively and companionable. And unless it's The Ashes, maybe skip the Test Match.

  4. I like this blog- you've really set yourself a task, to put it all out there! I carried a lot of the turmoil while my kids were very young, because of the need to work/create and the necessity to parent and manage the domestic goings-on I was in conflict- no other way to put it.I was lonely, empathy may not have wholly cured my situation, but it helps. You have mine.