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.