I was going to start this post not through my usual long-winded sentences, but via a grainy, insignificant-looking photo of some 5kg blue arm weights. And I would have done so, because the photo of the weights wouldn’t have been at all insignificant, but rather actually a modern portrait of a marriage, and therefore an excellent segue into my current state of mind – but Otis won’t give me my phone back so I can take a photo, etc, etc, so you’ll have to imagine it.
The Set Up – Weights As Modern Marriage Situation
15 years ago, our flatmate Phil gave Mark some arm weights. He was a personal trainer, and he and his wife would come back from running the whole of Hyde Park on a Sunday, and I used to think ‘U GUYS R CRAZY’ with their red faces and pulsing endorphins filling up the shared living room – and he used to give us exercise-y tips. He wrote me out a fitness programme, the kind of which you could do with tins of baked beans as weights for your flappy upper arms (even 15 years ago, they had a kind of ancient Great-Aunt-In-A-Sun-Dress kind of unformed saggy dough look to them) and there were exercises you could do using the couch and your body weight as resistance, all while watching ‘Six Feet Under’. And Mark got a programme too, and Phil gave him these biggish weights to keep – blue and round and quite difficult to store – and they have never been used by him, ever. But they have accompanied us through four flat moves, have lain under the bed while we made and birthed and fed and grew five children, they have rolled out from under couches onto small puppies, and bruised toes. They trip you up on late night visits to the toilet, on the way to answering the cries of fevered children, send you stumbling down the hallway when you sneak in late at night after drinking too many cocktails. They are hard, and they make marks into the walls when bored toddlers ram them repeatedly into them. They hurt when they break toes. They lift toenails off sometimes, and then there is blood. And they turn up in different rooms, all the time – so you forget about them, until you get hurt or fall over, and you are reminded of the malevolent force of the mother truckin’ Blue Weights.
So I asked, in those early years, if I could drop them off to the charity shop. Mark said No. So I asked, in those early years, if we could perhaps give them to someone who would use them. Mark said No. So then I asked, a little later, if Mark would store them in his storage unit. Mark said No. I thought of places to house them, but it only ever seemed to work if it was under the bed, along with his violins and boxes of warranties for household appliances that have long ago been replaced, and dog fur balls and hair clips and shoes that I am frightened of, and dusty dummies from babies who now are big and starting to get blackheads and oily t-zones. So they get put back under the bed, until someone rolls them out again, and then I fall over or hurt my feet on them, and now, now, there is a new system. It is this:
I put them onto Mark’s office chair. Right where he sits, every day. There are no words to be spent over this. It is a silent tussle of wills. I will return those bloody weights to his chair every single day, where he will have to pause, as he pulls his chair out from under the desk, and see the weights, and acknowledge them, and have to move them. Every MOTHER TRUCKIN’ day. The next day, they will be there, sitting on that chair, waiting for him. And that, a passive aggressive tale of history and intimacy and despair and resentment and pain and tolerance and patience and acceptance and frustration and fondness and feet, is also a portrait of a modern marriage. Think on that, Engaged Ones.
Here is a photo essay of the first two and a half weeks of the school holidays. I have been a wicked mother, and paid some young men at Fit For Sport to take two or three of the kids away for half the week. The idea was to make the holidays a bit easier for me – and as a bonus, it turns out the kids REALLY LIKE IT! Who knew? And I walk the dog and the kids there, along the canal, and on the way back, I buy 14 Portuguese custard tarts from Lisboa and eat a few every day. So it’s been painless and mostly fun, also featuring ice cream, new baby pet geckos, teeth, chocolate and Go Ape-ing. Here they all are, with a spectacular falling-into-the-Thames ending: