Happy New Year. So far, it is a bit of a Miserable New Year, despite a party and a wedding anniversary and the children leaving the flat for hours every day to learn stuff for free and get fed massive English midday post-war dinners with an array of puddings all cooked and served and cleaned up by other people, and despite the Selfridges sale which actually netted me my Best Sale Purchase EVAH. You would think we would be high-fiving each other and celebrating with modest amounts of wine in the evening and booking holidays and basking in the love and warmth and familial chaotic overload of dark cosy January with a grateful face and a rosy glow, lit by a Netflix screen and comforted by a big fat dirty dog. But no. It’s all silences and hissed one word responses and enormous gulfs in the bed. It’s not this:
(But that, to be fair, was a long time ago – 18 years actually, and we were thin and young with more hair and less arm circumference.)
So at my place right now, it’s war.
And that is because we have reached one of those relationship impasses, where we both think a very different thing about something big. One of us wants to leave and return home to New Zealand, like, NOW, and one of us definitely does not, certainly not now and maybe not ever, and we have to figure out what to do about this enormous, fundamentally different point of view. I think we need a spreadsheet and a therapist to work it out. Mark thinks we just need tickets and a shipping container.
It makes me feel panicky and itchy and claustrophobic to think about going home, like the end of school camp where you think you will never be the same again, and while it would be good to sleep in your own bed and get your mum to do your washing, you will never again feel so free and independent and reimagined and grownup, and you won’t ever have this much fun ever again, and you will miss your friends and the camp so much you might die. You’ve gotten used to the compromises like cramped spaces and the cold, and you are in love with the adventure and you don’t want it to end. So, going home would feel a little like that, but with the extra add-ons of no jobs, no money, no place to live, no sensible plans, no idea about schools, with an orange dog in quarantine and five children who are skinny and white and who are completely English with no rugby skills AT ALL.
Mark says (shouts) he is done here, DONE, I TELL YA! He says he misses family and friends and fishing and he wants a house and a garden and he is sick of work and the dark and the difficulty of it all. Then I get psychosomatic nut-allergy symptoms and have to leave the room, to mutter mean things under my breath and to try to remember to breathe. OH, it’s all too late for me now, but there was a time I would have been happy going back, when I didn’t know there was more out there, when I would have been satisfied with doing up a house and going to the beach a lot, when I would have been ok with never getting on a plane, except for the occasional trip to Melbourne to see some musical theatre. The end of how we live and what we do and the fun we have with the people we do stuff with and the things we have yet to see and the restaurants we haven’t tried yet and the sales I haven’t exploited…it just kills me.
So. I have a big globus hystericus which lives in my throat, just like Cheryl Glickman’s in the new Miranda July novel, and it gets massive whenever Mark starts looking on TradeMe for another million-dollar villa to buy in Dannevirke, and whenever he suggests we buy a bed and breakfast to run. I cannot make my own bed and my floor looks like this:
I didn’t even set that filth up. That filth is always there because I don’t like to sweep because it keeps me from More Important Tasks. So I CANNOT RUN A B&B because they would shut me down for health and safety reasons. And I would be serving people tea in stained chipped teacups and I would be crying and they would want to complain about how I didn’t make their beds with convincing hospital corners but they wouldn’t feel like they could berate me because of my obvious emotional distress and so they would leave some sort of bad review on trip advisor and we would be RUINED! And my kids would get beaten up by the massive shoeless New Zealand kids because their ball and tackling skills would be so underdeveloped, and because they have prissy English accents. And maybe Otis would be ostracised because he thinks he is Queen Elsa:
There’s no good to come of this.
Here are my children in their grey London habitat, eating Saturday crepes at Portobello Market, right after they went to skateboarding lessons. Can you even get crepes in the southern hemisphere? Don’t answer that, because, yes, obvs. And admittedly, Ned looks really sad and cold in that photo, and Casper in the other one looks mightily pissed off, but often they are beaming with the London joy, like their mother does.
Here they are, in Kensington Gardens, climbing a massive tree, enjoying all that outdoor space, the kind of space you might imagine they would get a few minutes from their house in New Zealand, but actually wouldn’t, because it would be more likely to be a highway or a farmer’s paddock which wouldn’t be open to all the kids to just climb trees on, willy-nilly:
See? Practically Hobbiton, but a well-connected Hobbiton with Selfridges down the road and many tube stations to take you around to the free, culturally enriching things EVERYWHERE. On the Selfridges thing, I got a Stella McCartney leopard print wool coat from this season which was £1340, reduced to £150. Yes, nearly £1200 off. You don’t get THAT kind of thing in High Street, do you? DO YOU? NO, mo’fos, you don’t.
Anyway, my globus hystericus has appeared again with all this traumatic talk. I have to go make a convincing spreadsheet and possibly sweep a bit of that crap from under the table.
Well Jodi, with your housekeeping skills, you may not be able to operate a BnB, but you could rent one of your houses on Bookabach. I present to you Example A: http://papermoonliving.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/a-letter-to-stu.html. Anyway, that wasn’t intended to be self-promotional, I just wanted you to know you definitely have options ;).
I thank you!
There are both crepes and trees here. And the boys would obviously play soccer not rugby which is cooler anyway. But if you don’t live in Auckland I fear you might not cope at all. As for shopping I go to Melbourne annually.
It’s pretty cool actually. I am typing this from a camping site just past Waihi. Hugebeaches. Sun. I don’t even know where the kids are right now. The boys would love it here, as long as they wear suncream. You would be fine. Things are a lot better than you remember.
Once back (if you do indeed return) I suggest getting an au pair to both help with the chillun and remind you of Europe.
I know. You speak the truth and it could well be that I am being a bit of an ass. But I’m feeling pretty forced into a corner here; powerless, without choice, no financial power, no leverage. It’s a bit globus hysterium-inducing, to say the least.
Oof, tricky times indeed. Were all the kids born here? You do seem to embrace all that London has to offer and when you are a part of your local community of neighbours and school friends it’s a very scary thing to think about leaving. Hope you can come to some kind of compromise xxxx ps very well done on the Stella McCartney coat!
Yes, all the kids born here. It’s all they know, and all I want to know. Thanks, and yes the coat is not only v stylish, but warm like a massive woolly blanket.
If you leave I will have no running buddy and I will become enormous and Chris will leave me and I may have a nervous breakdown. So, just make sure Mark knows he would be responsible for this, ok?
Also, we could never play the hilarious singing party game via Skype because Skype is SHIT.
NO LEAVING, thank you.
Well, if you put it that way…indeed. We can’t have two marriages destroyed over this, can we? Argh
Oh dear! that is a major decision!
But how will I see London by vicariously living through you?
I KNOW! Tell that to all the people hassling me to leave London to come back home. SHEESH
Oh, what a terrible dilemma. I would miss your instagram posts of all of London’s Saturday morning delights.
It is – and thank you for liking my (slightly repetitive) heartfelt posts x
I’m very sorry for the discord. As someone who moved repeatedly for my spouse’s work and then fared very badly financially in a divorce after 21 years, I understand what you mean about no financial power and no leverage. Young women like you need to be careful about the dissipation of your agency, which does happen if you move repeatedly according to the desires of the main earner – too many of these moves means a life story of dissipated work history, networks, friendships, individual life narrative. Obviously I don’t know the answer for you but I do empathise.
Thanks for your comment – it made me feel validated and like you were taking me seriously. I have been made to feel like I am being selfish, but there is so much more to it than that. And yes, losing my network of friends and work opportunities and history – that needs to be acknowledged as a ‘thing’. I appreciate your thoughts!
Of course I take you seriously, and I don’t know what’s selfish about not wanting to abandon your developed and happy life. It seems really reasonable to me that the family rule regarding long distance moves should be that either all adults are enthusiastic about it or it doesn’t happen. You’re not chattel.
Oh my goodness. My husband and I are in the same situation! Stay long term in the UK or finally go home (not NZ though but Melbourne – where, actually, the shopping is pretty great although admittedly not Stella McCartney 1000% off great). We have been in agony! I really really understand where you are coming from. We tend to do more ‘switching’ though – i.e. he will want to go home so I vehemently want to stay, and then I will start to ponder whether maybe it would be good to go home and start to weaken, where-upon he immediately then hates the idea of going home and wants to stay. Basically neither of us can make up our minds and so we just take the opposite stance to the other in order to maximise the marital discord and make ourselves both feel schizophrenic in our indecision about something which is going to affect the Rest Of Our Lives and Our Children’s Lives. The situation is so bad we even seriously considered writing to Graham Norton for advice!! (the agony aunt section of his radio programme on BBC Radio 2). Your idea of a therapist might be better.
What the bloody blazers are we to do? The status quo seems much easier than all this anguish. It is comforting to know it isn’t just us. I don’t think there is a right answer, which makes it so much more difficult to take any high ground. Anyway, good luck. Let’s all agree not to make any hasty decisions…at least not until the summer and we are free of SAD.
Hello, long-time lurker just chiming in to say that this post seemed very timely for me. I’m from the UK but live in Japan and I’m just back from my first visit to the South Island and WOW it seemed so idyllic and a great place to raise kids in the outdoors with tons of different activities. I realise now why all the Kiwis I’ve known in London are such beautiful souls and feel I should apologise for all the times you’ve been forced to watch a stumpy-footed pigeon eating sick outside Whitechapel tube station. I’m touched you see more of England than being grimy and grim!
That said, of course everything seems idyllic on holiday and when in the grip of the homesickness it seems like your husband has – where you can only see the advantages of home and none of the down side.
Might it be possible to suggest a compromise of an extended break back home (perhaps the whole 6 week school summer holiday)? Rent a house you could realistically afford, hire a car, catch up with the extended family and old friends and – most importantly I think – talk to people in your husband’s line of work about what he could realistically do if he came back into the job market.
It’s easy to sit at a desk fantasising about how perfect life would be but if the reality is that it’d be more of the same plus the loss of the things he does enjoy about London living then that might make him re-think.
On the other hand, you might find that if you could afford help in NZ (as some other comments have suggested) or relatives are around then you would have more time on your hands for your own projects and that could lead to an end of the ‘trailing spouse’ feelings. Plus you might find it’s more cosmopolitan than when you left – I noticed there was a Louis Vuitton store on Queenstown’s main street (!)
I went through something similar a year or two ago where I really missed home and the answer for me has always been taking a trip back for about 3 or 4 weeks. (I know I’m lucky as a freelancer that I can do that!) That length of time is enough to remind me that it’s not all problem-free and usually by the end of the trip I’m missing Japan and happy to come back to my other ‘home’! There’s always going to be things you miss, but good friends will stay in touch wherever you are and that’s the price of wandering and living in another country. Trick is to make kids feel connected to both countries and hopefully they’ll grow up with the same adaptability and curiosity about the world that their parents have.
Good luck for working it out between the two of you! (Sorry to have blethered on so much…)
What a lovely comment.
What Cath said. Lovely, smart, thoughtful comments, ones that I will take on board. Thanks for that!