Book of the day: Wuthering Heights
Valentine’s Day is not a particularly celebrated occasion in my household. As much as I enjoy tales of enduring love, aided and abetted by theatrical grand gestures and heroic sentimentality, where the most sophisticated performances cause tissues to be conjured from thin air and unsuspecting women to be transformed temporarily into pandas, I only slightly envy girlfriends whose partners have sacrificed a good deal of time and sanity into creating the perfect Valentine’s celebration. In truth I am not overly keen on being the centre of attention and feel easily flustered and uncomfortable (even in a crowd of two). My poor husband is positively allergic to the glare of the spotlight. In this one and only instance he is the master of subtlety (he is at all times the king of the understatement). If I were suddenly to perish I cannot for a moment imagine him prowling the woods (there is an unfortunate dearth of moors) near our home afterwards, howling, and demanding that I return as a ghost to haunt him, after the manner of Heathcliff: “Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad!…I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul.” I fear that I am simply too sensible and boring to wish that amount of pain on anyone, let alone my darling husband. The sight of him attempting such a gesture would, no doubt, make the unpleasant process of passing far more entertaining for me, but after the initial adrenalin has worn off and he decides that it is warmer inside I can think of many thrilling ways of spending an afterlife on Earth in addition to sitting in silence next to my husband, watching him watching his computer in the office and gnashing my teeth while he rinses instead of scrubs our son at bathtime. I find it difficult enough to command his attention now so I dread to think how much more easily he might ignore me as a phantom.
Similarly I have never yet unburdoned my soul upon a kindly domestic, after the manner of Catherine Earnshaw, who cried “Nelly, I am Heathcliff!” in such an unshakeable belief that two souls can be fused together as one. Yet I love my husband dearly and I believe that our relationship will endure. I just choose to manifest it in a different, more culinary-based, way. I think that, unlike Catherine and Heathcliff, we are just too sensible (or already too old) for such sensational, yet ever so romantic, twists and complications. I am certainly not interested in becoming embroiled in a love triangle, torn between choosing dysfunctional true love or tantalising social advancement. Neither is my husband the jealous and vengeful sort – he is simply too practical. (I once commented on Poldark’s alluring physique whilst watching an episode in which he was scything topless. My husband’s only reaction was that he was using the wrong technique, and so was perspiring unnecessarily – thus missing the entire point of the scene.)
We are not, then, overly romantic, and I do not expect any wild effusions of adoration from him on the big day. I am frequently spoiled in other, calmer ways. A surprise present of a Coop chicken tartare sandwich is more in line with my preferred manifestions of romance (even more so if accompanied by caracs). The grandest gesture we can make to each other at present is the offer to wash and put to bed our resisting toddler. We have accepted (through trial and error – his, not mine) that rehearsed speeches are really not our forte as a couple. I famously mistook the beginning of my husband’s proposal for a break-up announcement. It was entirely his fault, caused by a refusal to pay due attention to suitably educational television shows as a youth. Had he done so he would have been only too aware that the phrase “we need to talk” (followed by silence) has devastating connotations. For perhaps ten seconds after the terrible words were spoken I considered which of my transgressions had been my undoing, and panicked about how I was going to get everything on a plane to return home. In hindsight I have come to believe that scaring one’s partner with the threat of imminent homelessness is probably the most cunning and effective way to ensure an acceptance.
We did make an attempt at a romantic gesture for our first wedding anniversary, which took the form of a joint present: a badminton net and racquets. It provided a few hours of entertainment during that Summer, but sadly rusted into retirement only too soon. We put it away in our disused stable and promptly forgot all about it. A couple of years later it was rediscovered during a mass clear out in preparation for the builders’ occupancy. Wrapped up the net was the mummified corpse of what we imagined to be an écureuil. It being impossible to separate the one from the other they both made a rapid exit from our establishment, and I suppose that, somewhere, they must still be entwined. Now if that isn’t a metaphor for a love that endures I don’t know what is.
Mots du jour:
La Saint-Valentin – Valentine’s Day caracs – delicious Swiss chocolate tarts, covered in green icing écureuil – squirrel