The best part about holidays, for me, is that usually the children are on holiday too. Now they’re all grown up, of course, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that I’ll see them during every break, especially half-term breaks (or reading weeks, or enhancement weeks, or enrichment weeks, or whatever euphemism the uni chooses for the break that they will treat as half-term, because it isn’t that long since they were at school and it is at the same time as half-term, therefore it is half-term). So, it was an unexpected surprise to see both Joseph and Rhiannon over half-term. Even if the driving force behind Joseph’s visit was to collect his shiny, red, limited edition PS4 which Rhiannon had trailed round the South East to find. Rhiannon procrastinated her arrival at home by several hours to sharpen her brother’s appetite and by the time she arrived, complete with PS4, his appetite was pretty sharp. It reminded me of Christmas Day when he was much younger and he had received a PS3. He had sat with it on his knee for about an hour, just smoothing it (it was very smooth, to be fair) and looking at it. I think I had spotted his eyes actually glistening at one point.
We all went up to London to see Miss Saigon, as sadly, it was in its final days. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, which was very satisfying for me; as far as I’m concerned, it’s up there with Blood Brothers, Les Mis and Wicked. I love a good cry (never really get that) and I had to swallow a few sobs. When a fictional piece is rooted in fact, I run a gamut of emotions. So much more than if it was an entirely factual piece, which proves, I guess, that a good writer/director/producer can take something actual and manipulate our emotions. Which I love, even though I will feel sensitive for days afterwards.
Rusty had his (approximately) thrice-a -year haircut which was a relief to everyone. Well, to him and to me. Rusty is supposed to be a Jack Russell, but everyone who has met him laughs at such a preposterous suggestion. He has a carpet of hair which doesn’t fall out. By the time he trots off to the grooming parlour he resembles Dougall from The Magic Roundabout. He does look like a Jack Russell post-haircut, but the image is short-lived, as his lovable coat starts to grow back. My friends and family bemoan the scalping he suffers every few months, but as it doesn’t fall out, it gets knotty and pulls on his skin, so we have no choice really. Rusty is a hyperactive little doggie but when the locks go, he is markedly subdued for several days, as if, like Samson’s strength, all his energy lies in his hair. And of course, he has to wear a cute little coat to go for walks, lest he should feel the cold . . .
I drove Joseph back to uni after a few days, to ease the passage of the afore-mentioned games console from Sussex to Cheshire and stayed for a night. I had landed Rhiannon with pet-sitting at the last minute, for the duration that I was coursing through the counties, so I felt one night was long enough. No risk of any Rastafarians crashing my trip away at the last minute this time, so it was an all-round, more relaxing trip. I’d made several trips there and enjoyed them all; not least because I was seeing Joseph but also because it was an enchanting place to visit. I’d seen all the sights, some of them 2 or 3 times, like the cathedral. The last time was with the Rastafarian and we’d all had to wait for him in the inevitably over-priced gift-shop, while he spent £30 on some wooden rosary beads in a pretty little wooden box for his mother. At the risk of sounding harsh, with hindsight, I can’t believe he had the cheek to do that in front of me when he owed me money and just for the record, he never bought me a single gift. The nicest thing he ever did for me was to make me a lollipop. Unfortunately, I struggle to see any altruism from my present stance now. It was probably meant for The Current and she didn’t want it, or he was softening me like you soften butter to make it absorb anything you subsequently pour over it. But anyway, Joseph and Hannah (Joseph’s girlfriend) had been pleasant and welcoming to him, even when he’d admitted that he’d stayed out all night, the only night he’d been in Cheshire and had ended up at a nightclub they knew. I’d marvelled at his lack of shame and Joseph’s and Hannah’s generosity of spirit when they laughed off his embarrassing admissions.
Back to this trip: I left Cheshire around midday the day after arriving there, after breakfast at a pancake parlour which is worth the drive in itself. They serve sweet pancakes, savoury pancakes, build-your-own pancakes and coffee like jet fuel and so it rounded my trip off nicely. My drive home was reasonable, although I can never comprehend why the M25 is always something resembling a car park, no matter what time you find yourself crawling through.
Rhiannon returned to uni shortly afterwards and I returned to work. One of my colleagues confessed to putting the chocolate in my pigeon-hole, because he pitied me when I said that I couldn’t have cake in the staffroom one day. Of course, he had no idea that chocolate was also banned, but he also had no idea that I could have it on Sundays! So the chocolate story had a happy ending. And I was completely wrong about the provider of the chocolate – I assumed it was someone deliberately tantalising me because of Lent and as there’s always that one person at work who relishes in teasing and humiliating at every possible opportunity, my money was on them. I like a bit of teasing and humiliation but I’m also partial to acts of kindness. Before I start directly quoting Tennessee Williams I shall move on.
Post-(soon-to-be-ex)hubby and pre-Rastafarian, I had become used to going out on my own. With my single status, I remembered this, one evening when I noticed a local favourite musician was playing at the folky pub. Despite feeling a little sleepy, I powdered my nose and headed off into town and arrived just in time for the first act. There were 4 in total: an ok guy first, a ridiculously talented guy called Dom Prag second and just as Deirdre Faegre’s mellow Irish voice started seeping into the pub, even though she was the reason for my outing, I started to think that it might be time to go, as it was a school night. Then I felt a shadow over me and a voice asking if he could join me? It had been so quiet when I first went there that I’d felt slightly awkward. There was a big table next to me full of people that I recognised from a band I’d seen recently. I’d totally obsessed over them for days afterwards and wanted to say something, as they were sitting right there, but I found it difficult to shake off the Rastafarian’s view that musicians would think I was flirting if I complimented them (I’d watched women drape themselves over the Rastafarian and then suffer his consternation if I dared to have a little chuckle over any of them fancying a bit more than his music. One such lady in The Cosmopolitan Pub reminded me of Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda as she writhed while he played then snaked over to him afterwards to ‘congratulate’ him. But my personal favourite in terms of looks, was the one she gave when he came over to me and gave me a kiss.) Anyway, I looked up and before noticing who had addressed me, I became aware of how hemmed in I was on my stool at the only high table in the pub. I chose it because I felt I could sit there without feeling I was depriving a couple or a group of a decent-sized table, as it was very small. I hadn’t noticed how busy it had become but I did notice that this was a friend of the Rastafarian asking to sit with me.
‘Oh it’s you!’ one of us said – I forget who.
But I remember that Rastafarian’s Friend said the next bit.
‘I have the greatest of respect and admiration for you, for remaining in a relationship with him for so long.’
I’m not one to relish in the criticism of others, but I was almost moved to tears to know that there was someone other than me (and other victims) who had seen past the Rastafarian’s beautiful, gentle façade. I just assumed that all his ‘pub friends’ had fallen hook, line and sinker for his easy-going ways and unassuming talent. I don’t know why I hadn’t credited people with the wit to realise (well, some people anyway) that the façade hid layers of complication. Of course, if you’re not in a relationship with a complicated person such as the Rastafarian, the complications are unlikely to be an issue, so it’s easy to take such a person at face value and enjoy the outside bit without worrying about the inside bit. I tried not to be too negative about the Rastafarian but Rastafarian’s Friend was a willing listener and it was cathartic to be able to talk openly about ALL the reasons we weren’t together. But we didn’t just chat about him; we chatted about music, local and otherwise, Brighton and our association with it, families, relationships and the name of the guy with the long, black, curly hair whose skill with a guitar was second to none in my opinion. I’d wanted to ask the Rastafarian, so I could look up his music, but he was jealous enough I’d complimented the guy personally. Then Deirdre Faegre, my reason for being there, finished and the last act was starting. He offered me a drink but I felt like Cinderella, realising the time and gathering my things to go (I kept both my shoes on though). We vaguely arranged to meet in the same place in a month, for the next folky evening of music and he said that it would be like a date. That made me say that ok, I might see you in a month then. He looked a little crestfallen and I felt a little guilty, but I really didn’t want a date.