22 April 2009

A bigger house

p.m. Friday 12th January 2007

Buoyed by my chat with Pinki today, I spent the rest of the day trying consciously to remember what I used to love in my husband. Whom at least I managed to choose myself, marry without interference, and vow for better or for worse, taking my own responsibility for the outcome. When he got home late from the airport and hungry he found a roast leg of lamb studded with coriander seeds and rosemary in a red wine jus (secretly an old bottle of wine I found tucked in the corner by the stove). Roast potatoes and parsnips and green beans lightly sautéed with a hint of garlic and flaked almonds.

Although it was too late to spend hours over dinner we did manage to have a semi-civilised meal, and very different from the usual affair where I eat with the kids and he eats whatever time he gets back (late). We even talked for once:
‘Helen’, said Martin, stabbing at a slice of meat and picking off a rosemary stalk, flicking it to the side of the Wedgwood gold rim plates I’d got out specially, ‘I think it’s time to look for another house. I know I’ve been busy, but when I AM here I just see you running around all the time clearing up all the clutter’ (with his South African accent, it sounds like ‘clitter’!).

Too right, I think, not at all liking the mental picture this conjures up. Having perfected a system of manic tidying to get the place under control in 20 minutes flat, I often worry I’ve got some sort of compulsive disorder. But a tidy room is a sham in any case, and never lasts more than a few minutes: ready to collapse like a house of cards the minute a little person enters its portals.

Martin continues: ‘And the bubs are getting older, one day they’ll need their own rooms. And this place isn’t right for entertaining! So, I’ve decided it’s time to trade up!’
He pours himself more wine. Swills it round the glass, sniffs the aroma and takes a sip, smacking his lips. Duly satisfied with both the wine and this new development in our life together, Martin’s all puffed up. He’s got his wife’s attention again, the steering wheel in hand: Martin relishes being the provider. I know the way he thinks: women may have control over the nuts and bolts of domestic life, but who brings in the cash to keep the whole business up and running in the first place? “Best to concentrate on the big picture and leave the details to others!” is Martin’s mantra - in the office and at home.

Just as well too - I've increasingly realised just how little my husband (or most men, for that matter) are cut out to do simple tasks. In the chaotic domestic environment, husbands are very welcome to help as long as they follow our instructions and don't make extra work for us by bollocking things up. Martin gets round this conundrum by not offering to help in the first place. When challenged, he cites the cliché of the well-meaning Dad who puts the nappy on the wrong way, gets criticised for it and decides not to bother next time. In our defence as Mums, we’ve had to learn the hard way how to multi-task and be efficient and some, like me, can’t then drop the habit. You round up your kids like a field-marshal and before long you’re barking orders at Hubby too. Sometimes I actually feel sorry for Martin and wonder how much I'm to blame for our domestic woes.

As for Martin's sudden about-turn on buying a new house, I sneakily wonder how much of my husband’s decision is based on family needs and how much based on his thinking that with the circles he moves and grooves in, his semi-detached household just doesn’t cut it - despite the fact that we refurbished the entire place top to bottom when we bought it with extortionate ‘Farrow & Ball’ paint and the best of German designer kitchen and bathroom fittings. But I don’t actually care less what his reasoning is. Unusually, Martin and I are fully in agreement. I really, desperately need more space.

‘Come on baby, let’s have an early bed!’ Dinner finished, the caveman’s in full swing and nuzzling up behind me at the kitchen sink (of all clichéd places). Luckily the wine, a red with ‘Pommard 1er Cru’ on the label and a seductively spicy taste has taken its toll. Martin enjoys his tipple, another discipline for him to master, something else to be in the know about.

For once, I’m just enjoying floating above the kitchen sink instead of wading through it! I figure that my husband deserves a bit of lovin’. I relax, and we disappear off upstairs.

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