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Give and take? It’s has to be a two-way street. Always. And as for gentle summer evenings . . . a boy, even one batting 70, can still dream

This is also going in my main blog:

I wrote this piece in a fit of irritation going on anger a week or two ago. If you read it, you will understand why. I was going to post it, but as always a wise voice inside me cautioned to hold fast and give it a day or two and leave it in draft form. I did, and yesterday I deleted the draft, but kept the words. I reasoned that I might, at some point, still decide to publish it. First I decided to publish it in a second more private blog I keep which really is more a real diary.

The different between that and this, my main blog, is that I don’t mind the other being read. In fact, I like it and hold to the view that if you write something down, the chances are that you would like it to be read, whether or not you are aware of that. The other blog, on the other hand, is private, somewhere I can let my hair down. Perhaps in time it will be discovered and read — I don’t ‘market’ it like this one — but by then I shall be long dead and if someone is hurt or offended by what I write here, well, tough titties: you should have been a little nicer in the first place.

In fact while writing that last sentence I decided ‘what the hell’. Only two friends read this blog and one is fully aware of the threadbare state of my marriage, and I really don’t care whether or not the other one knows. I’m pretty sure he won’t be shocked. I believe my sister also read this occasionally, and she, too, is not unaware that my marriage has long lost its sheen.

I came to think about it all (and sit down and write this preamble) because it is a pleasant evening and I am sitting outside in the fresh air with a glass of wine and chilling. And it occurred to me that in an ideal world I would be sitting next to a woman, call her a wife, call her a partner, but someone I both loved and felt easy with and we would be chatting, about this, that and t’other, it wouldn’t matter. I do know that some marriages reach that stage, a few (although I suspect the majority reach the kind of desiccated state mine is now in, and some, a minority are simply sheer hell). And I’m not starry-eyed, believe me. If a marriage is ‘good’ you can bet your bottom dollar a lot of effort and work and selflessness went into making it ‘good’.

As it is, I have no woman of that kind with whom to share my life and pleasant evenings in the summer air. Don’t get me wrong: my life is certainly not one of unmitigated gloom and despondency. It’s just that a tiny part of me, even at my stage in life, is still a little romantic.

But back to that entry: here it is.

I suppose that everyone who is married has many war stories to tell, and I am no exception. Just now, well about 20 minutes ago, my wife’s essentially childlike nature again manifested itself: in many way our house is a tip, not as bad as many, certainly, but a little worse than some, and I don’t like living this way.

The trouble is that quite apart from being farmers - who notoriously don’t throw away anything - there is, I discovered a few months ago, autism in the family and my wife keeps everything. Every cupboard is jam-packed with stuff that will never, ever be used. In one corner of our bedroom are about five or six big plastic storage boxes, the kind you can pick up at Asda and B&Q, full of stuff. Much of it is old school reports, our children’s scrapbooks, photographs, that kind of thing, and although I am equally sentimental about their childhood there comes a point when enough is enough. These things aren’t looked at and never will be. They are just kept and woe betide anyone — well, me — who suggests perhaps sifting though them and throwing some of it it.

Down here in the kitchen is a cupboard jam-packed with small plastic boxes, the kind you can put sandwiches in. Many of them are old ice-cream boxes, and, yes, they can be useful. But how many does a sane person need. Three, four, five, perhaps, but in that cupboard, stuck in any old how there must be at least 30.

I suspect a strain of mild autism runs in my wife’s family. My brother-in-law is apparently autistic - I was told this by my sister-in-law Lucy with Andrew sitting right next to her, so it’s not as though she was somehow talking out of school - and two of their children have also been diagnosed as autistic.

I realise that autism is on a spectrum and that it can range from being mild to severe, but it does most certainly affect behaviour. I mention this because I think it’s highly likely my wife is also autistic to a certain extent and that would explain a great deal about what I have so far seen as extremely irritating quirks in her behaviour.

To describe it in one way - and I don’t mean this in any way unpleasantly but merely descriptively - her behaviour can quite often seem to resemble that of an eight-year-old child in a school playground. In arguments she always resorts to simply talking over you (well, me) and repeating the same phrase over and over and over again. As that kind of discussion leads absolutely nowhere, invariably I give in, though by no means gracefully. I have relaxed a little since I retired, but in the past I could quite often lose my rag and I have something of a sharp tongue.

There was an instance of my wife’s odd behaviour earlier. Every single cupboard and drawer in the house is jam-packed. In many you can’t get anything more in, and here in the kitchen one cupboard is jam-packed with small, plastic boxes, some bought, some old ice-cream boxes and that kind of thing. There must be at least two dozen knocking around. Occasionally one is use for food. One, occasionally.

A few days ago I took one out and filled it with all the little odds and sods of mine which clutter up the bench in our kitchen. This is an old-fashioned farmhouse bench just. This morning all the stuff had been taken out again, stuffed into a plastic shopping bag and the box removed. I asked why: it’s her box, she said, and it’s for food. You have about two dozen boxes in the cupboard I said, can’t you spare one? No, she said. And that was it.

Everything, and I mean everything has to stay in the place she has allocated it. If something is even slightly moved, she notices immediately and moves it back.

I don’t for a second imagine I am blameless and don’t also have my quirks. But I do like to think they are a little more mainstream. More to the point, not only do I believe in that hoary old cliche about marriage ‘give and take’, but I also practice it. Even more to the point I pay for everything, I pay every bill and then some.

For example, my wife has fallen out with her sister-in-law and her brother who since I’ve been married have employed her, both on the farm and in the house (my sister-in-law runs a ‘farm holidays for families with young children’ business). So now she has not income and no job.

Part of the make-up of her character (and I supposed, if I am right, her mild autism) is that in situations in which she is comfortable she is self-confident. In all other situations she completely lacks confidence, and so, for example, is shit-scared of going out into the world - Bodmin, say - and working.

She says she is keeping her ears open for anyone wanting someone to do with farm work (fruit-picking, for example, though I pointed out that that would provided employment for just a few weeks a year) and heard that the pub/restaurant in St Tudy wanted someone to keep the outside tidy, the verges, bushes etc. She went along and got the gig, but there was one slight complication: she needed a strimmer. So far when strimming work was necessary around our cottage, she borrowed her brother’s, but - well, see above. I offered to buy her one and a few hours later we went out to Mole Valley farmers in St Columb and I bought one for her. It costs, with a few odds and sods, the best part of £185.

What is relevant here is that the freelance work I have been doing for the Daily Mail for the past ten years, laying on the puzzles, which brought in a very handy sum every month, has ended. (I looked up what the original weekly fee was worth ten yours on after inflation had taken its toll and was surprised to find it had been devalued by 25%. So I informed the managing editor of that and told him I would be upping what I had been charging a month.

I wrote this piece in a fit of irritation going on anger a week or two ago. If you read it, you will understand why. I was going to post in on my main blog, but as always a wise voice inside me cautioned to hold fast and give it a day or two and leave it in draft form. I did, and yesterday I deleted the draft, but kept the words. I reasoned that I might, instead want to publish it here.

The different between here and my main blog is that I don’t mind the other being read. In fact, I like it and hold to the view that if you write something down, the chances are that you would like it to be read, whether or not you are aware of that. This blog, on the other hand, is private, somewhere I can let my hair down. Perhaps in time it will be discovered and read — I don’t ‘market’ it like the other — but by then I shall be long dead and if someone is hurt or offended by what I write here, well, tough titties: you should have been a little nicer in the first place.

In fact while writing that last sentence I decided ‘what the hell’. Only two friends read this blog and one is fully aware of the threadbare state of my marriage, and I really don’t care whether or not the other one knows. I’m pretty sure he won’t be shocked. I believe my sister also read this occasionally, and she, too, is not unaware that my marriage has long lost its sheen.

I came to think about it all (and sit down and write this preamble) because it is a pleasant evening and I am sitting outside in the fresh air with a glass of wine and chilling. And it occurred to me that in an ideal world I would be sitting next to a woman, call her a wife, call her a partner, but someone I both loved and felt easy with and we would be chatting, about this, that and t’other, it wouldn’t matter. I do know that some marriages reach that stage, a few (although I suspect the majority reach the kind of desiccated state mine is now in, and some, a minority are simply sheer hell). And I’m not starry-eyed, believe me. If a marriage is ‘good’ you can bet your bottom dollar a lot of effort and work and selflessness went into making it ‘good’.

As it is, I have no woman of that kind with whom to share my life and pleasant evenings in the summer air. Don’t get me wrong: my life is certainly not one of unmitigated gloom and despondency. It’s just that a tiny part of me, even at my stage in life, is still a little romantic.

But back to that entry: here it is.The upshot is the Mail (like all newspapers preternatually penny-wise and pound-foolish) decided to take the work in-house and my annual income has dropped by almost a third. (I might, perhaps, have handled it better, although I do suspect even more schmoozing wouldn’t have saved the situation and the work would have been taken in-house anyway.)

I mention that because £185 less means a lot more to me now than it did three weeks ago. I also mention that because it’s the kind of detail my wife simply forgets when it comes to my ‘using her plastic boxes’. The whole fucking point about ‘give and take’ is that it has to be a two-way street.

I have in the past thought of moving out and going to live on my own again now both our children are pretty much independent - our daughter is now married and our son will start his second year at university in September - and financially that would put my wife so far up shit creek there would be no coming back. But it would also be unbelievably petty however much it might provide a very brief satisfaction of ‘I’ll show you!’ so I shan’t do it. But by Christ the temptation is huge.

I will do anything for anyone as long as I am not taken for granted. I firmly believe that he who has should share it with he who hasn’t, especially in a partnership like marriage. You can believe that or you can think I am just bullshitting, but it is true. I also believe in trying as best as possible to live in a harmonious, peaceful and happy atmosphere for the benefit of everyone. But I also firmly believe that ‘give and take’ should be a two-way street and time and again I feel I am simply taken for granted. And it fucks me off.

Having written the above, I have got a bit of the irritation out of my system, but this time I shall post this in my blog. Why not? If it is read by someone in my immediate family, well, perhaps they will realise which way the wind is blowing. Fuck it, I am getting to the point where I really do feel I have had enough.

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