This is my hand


It’s a hand that does dishes (or at least loads and unloads the dishwasher).
It’s a hand that has raised two children.
It’s a hand can play the flute.
It’s a hand that has written eight novels.
It’s a hand that looks its age; that has a little arthritis starting in the wrist (broken twice while rollerblading and cycling).
It’s a hand that, for half its life, has worn a wedding ring. And now it doesn’t.
I like it fine.


The Sorrow and the Pity

A couple of days ago, a woman I like immensely but rarely see got in touch out of the blue and, after a very few texts, we’d arranged to meet for brunch. Lovely. Then I went all paranoidy and started wondering if she knew, somehow, about my situation and was only asking me because she felt sorry for me.

This has become something of a habitual thought pattern for me over the last couple of months, since I found out about my husband’s affair. Anyone who was particularly nice, anyone who said, ‘How are you?’ in way one reserves for the particularly unfortunate, anyone who appeared to look at me with concern, I immediately assumed they knew and it would throw me into a spin. My major concern, at that point, was preventing my children finding out and, of course, the more people that knew, the greater the risk that it would get back to them. That was part of the reason it bothered me – and that sounds rather laudable and unselfish, doesn’t it? But that was only part of  it.

I hate – absolutely HATE – feeling like the object of pity. Maybe everyone does. I don’t know. To be honest, I’ve ever asked anyone. Maybe I should. And I think my freakishly calm reaction to this whole being-dumped-after-so-many-years-of-marriage thing has been conditioned by that sentiment. I’m all, ‘I’ll be fine. Of course it’s very sad, but I’ll be absolutely fine. Don’t you worry about me!’. Pride, you see. It’s the original Original Sin. And it comes before a fall, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why I’ve ended up in this situation.

Anyway, it’s almost time to come out in the open about my situation, and anyone who doesn’t know, will know. And there’ll be plenty of ‘How are you?’s. Plenty of kindness and concerned looks and invitations out of the blue for brunch. I’ll be an object of pity. Of course I will. I’m the betrayed wife. The one they made a fool of. What could be more pitiable? But I’m learning … I hope. I’m going to shift my point of view and park that stupid pride for a bit.

Because how lucky am I, in the midst of all this mess and heartache and sorrow, to have people around me who care enough to pity me? Who care enough to invite me for brunch, to ask the awkward question, to text me just to check how I am, to see past my stupid glib assurances and my pretended strength.

Very lucky. Very lucky indeed.

Mexed Mitaphor

I am a writer as you may or, very possibly, may not know. A proper published writer of eight novels and some 15 to 20 works of non-fiction. A wordsmith, if you will. But you’re going to have to bear with me for a while because my brain isn’t working quite as it should.

So here’s the situation. For the last few decades, I’ve lived a life of more-or-less unexamined more-or-less content. Lucky me. But I think the ‘unexamined’ bit may be where I went wrong, because the rug has been well and truly pulled out from under me. And by the last person I would ever have suspected. The person I trusted entirely.

At first, in the place where the rug used to be, all I could see was a big black hole. And it looked so dark, so deep and so cold that I wondered if I might fall down it and never escape. But then I realised that there was another way of looking at things. Maybe, once the dust had cleared, underneath the rug, there might be a wooden floor that hadn’t been seen in years … if ever. Maybe, with the care and attention it deserved, that floor could start to look good again. There’ll be splinters, I’m sure, a few repairs, a lot of polishing but I think the floor is basically sound.

So that’s my project. And right here is where I’m going to be writing about it. And after all the work I’m going to be putting in on my floor, I’m not going to let anyone walk all over it or cover it up with a rug again. It’s my floor and it belongs to me! I am henceforth responsible for my own patina.


You did get that the whole floor thing was a metaphor, didn’t you?

And now … the weather

I confidently predict torrential rain on Wednesday, no matter what those amateurs at the BBC may suggest.

But why? How can I possibly be so sure?

It’s not the (non-existant) barometer in my hallway. It’s not the (also non-existant) seaweed hanging above the door. It’s not even a funny feeling in my elbow.

It’s my sister.

Wednesday is the day she goes to collect the Christian Aid envelopes she delivered last week and, going on the experience of previous years, she’ll be in for a dousing because, as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished.

She doesn’t seem to mind, phlegmatic little thing that she is. People are more likely to be at home, she reckons, if it’s raining. And, again on past performance, if she turns up on the doorstep looking like a drowned rat, she gets the sympathy vote and people seem to donate more.

That’s what she thinks, anyway. I hate to shatter her illusions, but their charitable donation may not be quite as pure and selfless as she imagines.

(This is not my sister, by the way. I borrowed this one. Mine is a hundred times more gorgeous.)

L’etat, c’est moi (trans. Look at the state of me!)

So, there I was, minding my own business in the middle of Whitehall, the kids were warmly wrapped in a cosy sheet that just happened to have the 1st article of the Declaration of Human Rights painted on it. It was, to all intents and purposes, a perfectly ordinary Sunday.

Through the throng, there came a little man. ‘Quelqu’un qui parle Francais?’ he pleaded. ‘Personne?’

Well, me – obviously. I do. I have a string of translations to my name – fascinating stuff, too. Thirteen volumes. If you want to know anything at all about robot spot welding, I’m your woman. CAD/CAM – easy peasy. Remote control and proprioception – pas de probleme. Of course, this was all about 20 years ago, but still. So I stepped forward.

‘Oui, m’sieur. Je parle Francais. Je peux vous aider?’

Well, it transpired that he was not a Frenchman in distress. What he really wanted was an interview for French radio on what was going on. I was now in too far to get out, so plunged on – recklessly.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, just how blank your mind goes when someone puts you on the spot. Particularly in another language. I think I may have said that Gordon Brown was a ladle. And I’m pretty certain that I expressed nothing but disdain for the people who were carrying the Olympic teatowel that day.

I forgot to ask him what channel the interview was going out on. Probably just as well. But if anyone did hear it – please, don’t tell me what else I got wrong.