Being the recollections of a fifty something English man that finds himself in unchartered lands
By Adam Nieve
The year is 1992, Paul Newman & Elizabeth Taylor present the Oscar for Best Movie to Silence of The Lambs, four Police officers are acquitted of the beating of Black Man Rodney King in California, CD sales outstrip those of cassette tapes for the first time, the Rio Climate change conference takes place and in the UK 712,026 people get married, I am one of them.
I married on January 4th, ten months later I was a father, a year after that my partner & I bought our first home together, our family home in Notting Hill, not long after that we acquired a puppy, which we named Pepper.
In the space of one year I had gone from living in a dull town in the middle of England working in a dead end job with no girlfriend and before me a future that to me looked distinctly bleak.
I decided that I needed to get out of my little home town, so I headed to London to find a new job and new prospects. On the day I arrived I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and went through the situations vacant, I called up one, a Menswear company in West End, an interview and two days later I start work. On my first day people are decorating the offices, a man and a woman, unbeknownst to me they decide on a bet the two of them, who can pull me, she wins. Within a week I’ve moved into her flat. Eight months later we marry.
Looking back now I find it astonishing that from the smallest of things, like a small ad in a newspaper that my life takes an entirely new direction and the next two decades of my life are set in motion and I begin to settle into married life, fatherhood and a new home complete with a dog named Pepper.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at four pm on some idle Tuesday.
Each story needs a hero isn’t that what they say? Now I know that a bloke approaching his fiftieth birthday doing the housework on a Saturday morning doesn’t auger well for a tale of Alpha Male Hero proportions, but I am afraid dear reader you are going to have to make do with me, but bear with me, it gets more interesting.
Did I tell you my name – you can call me Adam, I’m pottering around the house I share with my wife and my son and my dog in Notting Hill on a Saturday morning.
Now I’m a plain everyday sort of bloke, the type that’s settled, that time and some good fortune and a bit of hard work has made comfortable and if I have to admit it just a little bit fat, but that’s a common tale isn’t it – middle aged spread.
I’m the sort of person I’m certain you would pass in the street without a second glance, that doesn’t stand out in a crowd, doesn’t rattle cages, you see a long time ago I figured out certain inalienable facts, that everyone is good at something, I am good at taking care of business, of earning the dosh to pay the bills, indispensable for clearing blocked toilets, the occasional dead mouse in the kitchen that requires disposal, the supermarket run, I am your man and there I find purpose.
My beautiful wife is the glamour-puss, artist, yoga teacher, creative, my son the bright spark, Cantabrigian just graduated, a writer & actor in the making,
Twenty years of marriage under our belts, She and I both turn fifty this week, our birthdays are just one day apart. She one day older than I – she says that makes all the difference. The thing about being married to her is that I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else, why would I want to?
I fancy the pants off this woman even after all these years, the big dark eyes the frizz of hair, the curves. And on top of that I think she’s the most decent person I’ve ever met, somehow or other she chose me as a partner. She is the only person I can really open up to, the one person I trust above all others & though I’m not one of those blokes that does soppy sentimental, it doesn’t do for a bloke to be soppy, but let’s just say were you to take me to one side and apply truth serum, or ply me with liberal quantities of booze, then in time I would tell you in slurred speech that the best things in my life were my wife & my son Saul. If you continued to dig I might tell you that I had this feeling deep down that I suspected the whole reason for me being around at all was because of the two of them. But I’d also say it quietly, maybe in a whisper, as though I had a suspicion that if I said it out loud that my luck might run out or I would be tempting fate & that the Gods would realise there had been a mistake & I wasn’t meant to have them in my life. So there I would leave it, quietly convinced that I was the luckiest of men and I should just keep quiet about my great fortune.
At one p.m. I walk into my bedroom carrying an armful of clean laundry, on my wife’s side of the bed on the little table next to it lies her computer, lid half down. I place the laundry on the bed and sit on my wife’s side, I look at the laptop, my gaze intensifies, then I do something I have never done before in twenty years of marriage. I doubt her. I open up the lid and the screen flickers into life. It’s not locked, a row of open window icons runs across the bottom of the screen. I click the first, it’s a horoscope website that offers double readings, for you & your lover. The window pops up: You & your lover’s personal reading.
June 24th – her birthday and where mine should be, June 25th is another date, April 17th.
I stare at the screen, trying to find a reason why and of course there is only one reason.
My wife is having an affair.
I sit in silence staring at the computer screen. April 17th. I know it’s him, it’s that little shit Syd, that bastard, that fucking bastard, that bastard that I thought of as a friend. Last year we had a party for him in my house, because she said his place was too far away, that we had the same friends and most of them lived nearer us than his place up in North London. We should do his birthday party for him, she said.
That snake of a man was in and out of my house for years and I let it happen.
I have to speak to her about his now, right away, I have to hear her tell me face to face, I fly out of the house & jump in the car and head the mile or so up Ladbroke Grove & along Kensal rise to where my wife is this afternoon, at a fund-raising fair at a friends Yoga centre.
I enter the Yoga hall which is full of Notting Hill type ladies, there are crystal stalls & jewellery stalls, pashminas sorted by pantone, massage stalls, esoteric books, card readings, I walk up and down aisles and from one room to another all the while my head feeling like it’s splitting until I find her.
There I find her at the card reading stall. I know , I know about Syd I say.
The words that followed escape me, hers and mine, but we head outside to talk on the street.
She admits that she is seeing him, the rest is a blur. She then announces that she has to go back inside, she has an appointment for a card reading.
“Seriously, you are going back for a card reading when we are talking about our marriage?”
“But I’ve paid for it, I really want to have the card reading, we can talk afterwards.”
My jaw hangs open in disbelief at what I’m hearing. What the hell is this?
She heads back inside and I am left in the street, pacing up and down.
I can’t believe any of it, finding out she’s having an affair, because of a bloody horoscope, and then being left on the street because a card reading is more important than our marriage.
Most of all I can’t believe that I am the shmuck that let it all happen.
I stew in the street for half an hour pacing up and down my head a cacophony of questions and confusion, then she comes back out, so let’s go somewhere and talk this through I suggest, she says that she is scared of being on her own with me. Those words cut me like a knife, hurt her? Is this what she thinks of me? Does she really think so little of me?
She calls Anna a close friend who lives around the corner, we go to her place so she feels safe. Anna bless her acts as arbiter, listener, or perhaps just friend. I say I would like to work a way through what has happened, that I would like to make us work. Anna chips in saying something about my words being generous, Lucille cuts her back abruplty, from then on Anna remains silent.
I say that we should go home and see our son, explain what’s happening, reassure him that whatever happens we will work it out. Then Lucille drops a bombshell, I’ve already told him, I called him from the Yoga centre. What do you mean? You told him over the phone, why, why do that? I thought we would speak to him together?
Because I didn’t want you to tell him first she says.
Again I’ve been played for a fool, and what’s more I begin to realise I am still thinking like someone who is married, whilst she is somewhere else entirely.
We eventually head back home and the three of us, Father, Mother, Son sit down to talk, or more accurately she talks. She says she has been having an affair with Syd, that it is serious, then she begins to talk about her childhood, how nobody noticed her, how nobody listened to her. I listen, she talks and she cries, all I hear is her story and it begins to dawn on me that there is no space in it for me.
This is the last occasion that the three of us are together in any shape or form that could be described as family, like an implosion we constrict and collapse inwards and then outwards, going in opposite directions, none of us can quite face the idea of remaining in the house, my son is billeted with friends, my wife goes to stay with Anna, I dread the thought of being there alone & go to my sisters for the evening. I sit in her back garden and we drink white wine into the night. I talk for hours, she listens and at times I cry like a baby.
The following morning I wake up on my sisters sofa with a sore head and a mouth like the bottom of a bird cage. After a couple of cups of strong coffee I head back home.