Mistakes. Everyone has made them. Some are small and mean nothing, others are massive.
This is the tale of my greatest mistake which was a relationship I engaged in far too quickly without any thought. It was a painful experience but a valuable one in the life experience box. Unfortunately it took four years and put me almost back to where I was when I started.
Fear not dear reader, it’s none of you and it will only contain the funny, or odd moments rather that the sad, tragic ones of which there were a few and one in particular. That incident or the ‘Traumatic event’ as I refer to it later as, will remain in the dungeon in my head as it would be unfair to release it even though she’s not party to this. My trusted soldiers know that moment in all its graphic emotional detail and I’m happy that it remains like that.
All relationships have problems and challenges to overcome otherwise they wouldn’t be interesting and we wouldn’t crave the company of the opposite sex. We all love a challenge but the magnitude of some challenges only become apparent when you are up to your guts in the blood and bullets with no sign of escape.
The transition from the previous relationship to this fruit loop is not relevant so all you really need to know is that following a lot of arguing and weepy agreement “previous” and I split up. I believe to this day that we both think we ended it as we still don’t agree on the way it ended the reality is that we just grew apart as we were essentially different people at that point. Relationships mostly end with either death, annoyance or irritation on the part of one or the other and this was no exception. In essence I found myself at the tail end of one relationship, with an intelligent woman I’d known since School and almost immediately into another one with a whole different kind of animal.
Firstly, I should explain something. I have never knowingly pulled or chatted up anyone. I have relied on luck and at a push humor to get me within the snogging arc of a woman. Essentially this is because I am a shy person initially regardless of all the mouth and opinion.
My ‘technique’ when it comes to the opposite sex is to either let it all happen around me or blindly walk straight into it to see what happens…. Sometimes it works and sometimes it goes spectacularly wrong on a number of levels.
She needs a name so let’s call her “Mildred” as I don’t know anyone called that and it’s not her real name.
I met Mildred at work. She was engaged at the time to a hippy with no big toes. When I met her she seemed normal and I didn’t know she was a weepy, scatty, needy, head case, spend thrift, manipulative, liar with a food allergy and a heroin addict, bullying, father. Had I known these factoids I would clearly have chosen a different chalice…. In the words of the Knight at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the last Crusade’ I chose unwisely and ignored my own mantra of “Knowledge is Power” to dive headlong into uncharted territory led by something far smaller than my brain.
And so we head back to the mid 90’s to an wage crippling rented flat in North London and a CD player blasting out floppy hat wearing, mumbling drunk dwarf troubadour Van Morrison’s opening lines of “Astral Weeks” his much heralded 1968 snooze fest album…
“If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me? Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down In silence easy
To be born again”
This ‘chuck a few words at a piece of paper’ approach to lyrics is complete cobblers and its endless playing should have sounded as a screaming, twirling, flashing red light warning siren to anyone at the beginning of a relationship. Unfortunately she saw these words and in fact the whole shower of shit album as the bedrock of a future with me.
As lust is blind I attempted to embrace this shit rather than ignore it and return to familiar, simple territory in the form of Van Halen’s greatest lyric from 80’s Hard Rock classic ‘Everybody wants some!’
“You can’t get romantic on a subway line,
Conductor don’t like it says you’re wasting your time
But everybody wants some….I want some too…..
Everybody wants some…..how ‘bout you?”
These lyrics mean more to me more than a miserable Irishman’s ramblings as I have, on many occasions, actually been on a tube train with various women in a series of romantic clinches wanting ‘some’. However both sets of words mean fuck all in reality. Never pin your hopes on a song to define love because, unless you wrote, it it’s not about you or the one you crave, you’ve merely borrowed it to be a ponce and potentially have sex.
Like all relationships it started well….or perhaps relatively well.
There was the inevitable opening salvo of lots of sex, drinking, eating and excessive socializing. However the party period ended fairly quickly and I soon found myself in a usual routine. It’s a bit like going on holiday and falling in love with the place you visit. You dream of living there as you had such a great time on holiday relaxing but if you lived there every day and had to suffer what everyone else does on a daily basis to survive like tube trains, weather and work then it’s a different story. It becomes just another thing that you deal with.
Due to the situation on her side we moved in together immediately and rented a flat in my locality. In hindsight I probably should have moved somewhere else but I was more connected than her and so she headed my way. This was exciting for her but difficult for me as I would inevitably bump into the “previous” which would have been awkward for everyone. To be fair the “previous” didn’t make it awkward… she dealt with it with aplomb and class much to compound my shame.
The problems started fairly quickly. One Saturday after we had moved in I prepared to head off to play football, a heinous crime at the best of times but in this case right up there with sleeping with her sister apparently. She knew I played football…. Everyone knew but she assumed that was over in favour of long walks and far off looks…She was wrong.
This caused a major wobble on the part of Mildred as she expected to be with me every waking minute. She looked distressed and described herself as ‘gutted’ which I found hilarious for a grown woman. This was a sign of things to come, the first hint of the deep anxiety within.
And then the crying started.
The floodgates opened and they wouldn’t shut for four fuckin’ years…. Everything seemed to spark her into floods of tears. Cats in adverts, Dogs on leads, running out of teabags, Van Morrison, The Beatles, bruised apples, dishcloths, the ‘wrong’ rice, prawns, the bloke with no big toes, another ex I’ve never met, bin liners that were too small, train stations, dishwashers, pine furniture, the smell of crayons…. You name it she’d cry about it or attempt to cry about it. It turned out to be a dewy-eyed ‘love me I’m vulnerable’ tactic. Tears should never be used for a manipulative purpose because you might need them one day.
Then there was the stupidity.
A moment of this that sticks in the mind is one morning when we were standing at an open platform waiting for the train to work. It was very windy and she was standing with her hands in her coat pockets. I was looking down the track for the train talking to her all the while when I heard a muffled screaming.
I looked around and a carrier bag had blown up and lodged itself around her face in an Alien face-hugger kind of way.
She was screaming and ferociously shaking her upper body and head trying to free the bag. It was reminiscent of that dance that aging potbellied Quo fans do to “Whatever You Want”. I look across the tracks and see that the entire southbound platform are in hysterics… who can blame them? I nearly issued an Selwyn Froggatt double thumbs up before realizing that I was responsible for her.
I suppressed the laughter and calmly walk over to her and remove the bag like a kidnapper revealing himself to the captured. I then surveyed the scene of facial devastation. Hair disheveled, make-up smudged. It’s a mess….Head Carnage at eight in the morning. Unsalvageable.
I ask her what happened and she explains the bag just flew up in the wind and wrapped itself around her face. Being slightly less than truly thick I had worked that out already.
“Why didn’t you pull it off with your hands?” says I…
“ ..They were in my pockets….” she says…and then bursts into tears….
I saw a lot of this stuff. It was real low level intelligence that I wasn’t used to.
You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to realize that you can’t cook a frozen pie in a microwave for 30 minutes without an issue involving a window and a descending, smoking pie crashing into the roof of a parked car from 20 feet above it. It’s not normal to put cooking salt in a dishwasher and if you are going to lie remember the previous lies or you get sussed out pretty quick and possibly in a restaurant in Rhodes by a mate of mine.. I appeared to be going out with ‘Duckface’ from Four Weddings and I didn’t like it.
The “previous” was and is a highly intelligent person from intelligent, well-mannered stock. This is what I was used to. I’d never been out with someone this needy and dim witted and so I was struggling to adapt without smashing a hammer into my forehead to level the playing field. She had forced me into some form of educational snobbery even though I was comprehensively educated to a low, can’t be arsed level.
If you go out with me you need to be a fairly robust woman to reign me in as I can get out of control fairly quickly. I’m happy for the argument and can take a bollocking so I need a woman who can dish it out. I’m not used to subservient, tearful, pretend dimwits who struggle with the basics in an adult relationships. However it was my shit storm so I ploughed on as there was no one else to blame. I was in it and needed to deal with it…
And then I met the family.
No one else’s family can faze me as I come from an intense upbringing. Metaphorically it was kill or be killed with extreme humor chucked in. It was a great laugh with some challenging moments but it made me a better person capable of pretty much dealing with anything.
In the first few months I had heard a lot about Mildred’s Father. My initial reaction was that he sounded like a prick. That remained my position throughout…. He was a prick.
Prior to meeting him I was constantly warned that he was mental, a “loose cannon”, “not to be messed with”…blah blah. But like I said I was brought up by a master piss taker who never, ever backed down and so I was ready for this bloke years before I met his daughter.
We arrive at the family ranch following a fraught panicky journey on her part where she didn’t like the seat on the train sparking a little cry in carriage two. The Mother was lovely, the brothers are funny talented blokes…. the sister is pretty much a scumbag who I would never like. Cocky and sly with a low level smirky husband. Right up my street…
I look around for the Patriarch… I see the granddad sitting in a chair, all craggy and wizen in a haze of cigarette smoke. They introduce the Dad and I look behind the granddad for a body. Nothing there. And then it clicks.
I look around at the terrified family and my face says ‘are you lot taking the piss?’. I reckon I could get my whole hand around this bloke’s neck and I have tiny, pixie hands. The visual experience was hugely irritating and immensely punchable.
He was a beady little bloke who liked to sit in silence desperately trying to intimidate all before him but he was and failing massively on this occasion. I shook his hand and he held the grip slightly longer than was necessary, always a sign of instant defeat, in my view. It oozes ‘I’m the Guv’nor’ but masks inadequacy in the trouser department.
He spent most of the time with his shirt off revealing heroin (burned, bent spoons had been found in the garage) sculptured abs and overlong spindly, snapable arms. I was fascinated by his nose which was a monstrous, coke chugging hoover where the most surprising thing about it was that it wasn’t battered flat by someone with a better handshake. I’m not backward at coming forward so I decided to engage him in conversation. I could sense that I was irritating him immediately as I wasn’t Mildred’s ex, the no big toes hippy who barely spoke and was a timid frightened boy at the best of times.
To keep the peace I backed down to allow him to win in his own house. In the long term this ultimately was a mistake as he seemed to thrive off my territorial compliance and became a greater bully to his family than I should have allowed him to be.
The greatest moment of bullying witnessed first-hand by me was on Christmas morning when I’d stayed at the family home. I was sitting on the sofa next to the Dad engaging him in a meaningless conversation when the mother entered the room and asked me if I wanted a bacon sandwich. Before the words had finished coming from her mouth, Dad interrupted and said “I’ve told you before Cunt, don’t interrupt the men when they are talking…. Now fuck off…”
….Lovely stuff eh? I’ve heard a lot of swearing in my time but not much this unnecessary to boost your own skeletal ego.
At that moment I had two options. I could either remove myself from the sofa and follow the mother out of the room (nothing) or I could wipe him out on his own sofa, potentially get arrested for GBH and ruin Christmas (all). Sadly as I love Christmas I chose the festive, less violent option I walked out to apologize myself to the Mother to raspy B&H cries of “where the fuck do you think you are going?” from the oxygen thief. We would never engage in a conversation again.
In reality these mugs had let this bag of bones dominate them for years and so I felt only partially on board to assist them. I was new on the plot and not a knight in shining armour or gun for hire. There were two brothers who could have removed him from their lives long ago but cowered in his skinny shadow. They suffered him… I didn’t have to.
It was a defining moment in the relationship. I wanted nothing to do with the Dad after that so it made things extra difficult as oddly they were a tight family in the face of brutality. Long after we split I heard that the mother snapped one day, battered him and chucked him out… that’s all it took, one moment of defiance from the bullied and the bullies generally crumble.
Life continued and we bumbled along living in an expensive flat. We had no money as she had expensive taste and wasted it all. For some reason she would only wear top end make up and lotions that would skint me out monthly. She would sign up for college courses and then only attend once before weeping and claiming it was the wrong thing. She required specialist food, special shoes and liked to travel by cab even from North London to Wandsworth on Christmas day to deliver a trifle to her brother…. I was losing the will… she was a money pit rather than a life partner. When you start to worry about the wallet over love it’s the clearest sign that you need to jack it in but I refused to give up. I wanted it to work.
It’s at this point that the traumatic event happened. It will forever be emblazoned on my memory like a red hot burn mark from an electric ring reminding you to get an oven glove next time. It brought us closer together temporarily as it should have done. It was a bad time.
In an attempt to fix the problems and start afresh somewhere with less memories we bought a flat which had a mortgage considerably cheaper than the rent we were paying. It was important to try to draw a line under stuff and push forward. I saw this as a chance to make it work and for a while it did but all the tears and crap returned albeit in a different venue eventually.
It was a nice flat but had difficult neighbours who were hard work. The neighbor directly below us was an alcoholic hippy with a habit of leaving his front door open in a drunken stupor. I could deal with this as it was no big deal…. Everyone likes a comedy drunk right?
The next door neighbours were more challenging. You couldn’t bump into them or in fact see them without an endless conversation that required a “go away” conclusion. If you didn’t cut the conversation off you would never get away.
Our flat had a first floor terrace that overlooked the crazies garden. It was impossible to sit on the terrace doing anything without multiple, rapid fire questions from them. “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? What are you doing later? When are you doing it?” This kind of thing…. I was getting ruder by the day… they were oblivious, committed and continuous.
One day I come home from being out and I walk in the kitchen and find Mildred crying. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence but I felt compelled to ask as it was more sustained and moany than normal. It would appear that the neighbours had been in their garden engaging in a spot of external, garden based felatio.
Now, I’m no prude and generally believe that if it floats your boat, is legal and affects no one directly you should be allowed to do it but this was taking the piss. They were aged and pale not sleek and glowing like porn stars.
I asked Mildred to try to explain exactly what the problem was. She said that she was doing some general weeping around the house and had ventured onto the back terrace to weep at the garden. Once outside she noticed a rather old man with long, flayling white hair facing skywards with his eyes closed. Below him, was the bobbing head of the 60 plus year old neighbor who I’m reliably informed was going at it like a dog with a hot chip.
The deliverer of the ‘chip’ wasn’t her husband either as I knew him to be taller, balder with a lazy eye and an elongated head. I tell Mildred to calm down and remove herself from the hysteria she was heading towards as it’s not as if she’s unaccustomed to the act she’s been witnessing.
I’m not certain how I kept a straight face but in the spirit of professionalism I did and headed to the garden to confront the ‘gobbler’ and the ‘gobbled’.
For dramatic effect I stood on the terrace, stentorian voice booming downwards to the cowering trainee ‘goo girl’ and toothless Father Christmas lookalike who clearly couldn’t believe his luck at this stage in his life.
“I know what’s been going on here….. You sicken me….disgusting…” Says I emphasizing the word ‘disgusting’. They look sheepish, panicked and shocked by my authority. Santa attempts to speak, then pauses… I intervene with a finger to my lips which I then point at him.
“You mate…. I’m watching you…”
This is a complete load of bollocks with absolutely no meaning and no intent on my part but I’m banking on intellectual inferiority kicking in as he isn’t the brightest tool, although Mildred did claim that he was ‘shiny’ ‘mauve’ and ‘bulbous’ and she’d know… she’d seen a few.
Then he speaks… He’s filled with hate and anger not embarrassment.
“..I’ll burn you fuckin’ house down…” he says in the very fast voice of the frantic…
There’s a twenty second pause while I let this sink in. I only do this for dramatic effect as he couldn’t be less threatening if he tried. I smile… then burst out laughing, he goes absolutely mental in a ‘let me at him’ way, the Gobbler howls at the moon and Mildred wails into a tear sodden tea towel…. Bedlam erupts around me and I’m tempted to find the camcorder however I laugh and point at him….it’s the stuff of nightmares but I continue the ‘point and laugh’ schtick until I shut the terrace door and head out of sight to mop up a river of tears.
In the aftermath I decide that whenever I see the recipient of ‘natures nosh’ I will simple make the ‘Nee Nar, Nee Nar’ noise like a police car indicating his eventual arrest. It drives him mental and I even do it from within the house when I see him in the garden when he can’t see me. The felatioed pensioner screams the place down thinking he’s hearing ‘voices’ every time….slowly, slowly, catchy monkey….
In an attempt to calm the situation and stop a potential inferno engulfing my flat I bow down to Mildred pressure and contact the local authority who intervene and force the pyro’s into writing an apology. This apology was followed by a rather crude hand drawn picture of me on fire being anonymously posted through the letterbox. When I eventually leave Mildred in the coming months, another anonymous note is passed through the door which reads:
“… The Devil is gone…Good…”
It was at this point that my interest in Mildred started to wane considerably. Does anyone really need all the whining? Is it why you attempt to start up a life with someone? No it isn’t.
I start enjoying myself without her, in fact at times I don’t even think about her when I’m out. I was less than saintly during this time… the smaller brain had literally raised its head and left the relationship. This was when I met Jen and so that was the end of Mildred as far as I was concerned.
And so we reach the end game…the burst for freedom, the first cut of the barbed wire.
The reality with any break up is actually saying the words that is the Rubicon moment. You only have to say them or hear them once to know It’s over. It’s rarely said in haste and normally it is meant…. It’s the fatal blow.
I had thought about the words for a while and then one morning I woke up and decided the time was right and I needed a better life than this and so delivered the bad news. To my surprise she was remarkably calm about it. Maybe she’d cried herself out over the previous four years or perhaps she was as miserable as I was.
We told the respective families and started to make the necessary arrangements.
Bizarrely my parents were less happy with the situation than I thought possible. Perhaps I hadn’t made it clear how bad the situation was…..they seemed to be suffering from a sense of grief that would hang about for about 6 months which caused some problems.
It was decided that I would leave and she would buy me out of the flat as I had called on the situation. I would get a bit of money but when you balanced off the credit card debt she ran up in my name I’d end up with nothing but I didn’t care, the prize was moving on to happier times.
I needed somewhere to live and the ‘previous’ came to the rescue. She said I could move back into the old flat which she now rented out which was handy and financially beneficial for me rather than her. She is an lovely woman and remains a great person and I will be forever be grateful for her assistance during this time when she really should have let me suffer in a mess of my own creation.
In the run up to leaving I decided that a good idea would be to not hang around the flat too often. Mildred was getting increasingly anxious about living on her own and all the old weepy, mental problems started to raise their head which merely confirmed that the correct decision had been made.
However I started to notice that the ‘mentalness’ only happened when I was in her company. Somehow she successfully managed to crowbar her way into a half of my mates who excluded me from social events so she could attend. I later found out that she had told this group that I was knocking her about. This was complete cobblers. I’ve never hit a woman and never will. It’s the coward’s way.
I was hit quite hard once by a woman. I was at a party in the late 80’s in a bathroom when a right hook was delivered to my face by an angry girlfriend… probably my fault but there was no moment when I thought retaliation was acceptable or even partially warranted.
She also started spreading the word to the gullible that I was responsible for the traumatic event. Her parting gift to me was to split my mates for her own weepy selfish exit. I have little to do with those believers now….. I chose wisely….
In the week running up to my departure I needed to get on the lash, large. And inevitably up stepped Bunny. He sorted me out.
Two days before I moved out I was in the pub with Bun and I told him about all the bad stuff and the lack of stability…
“… I think she’s a bit nuts Bun…” says I through a haze of lager…
“..Mental mate… always has been…” he tells me….
“What?…. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Not my fuckin’ job to tell you…. Your job to find out….My job is to be here at the end for you… You wouldn’t have believed me anyway…”
Fine words from a great man…. He was spot on… Who would listen?
We leave the pub and I head back to the flat for the penultimate time. Bun comes with me as he’s ludicrously polite and feels the need to say his goodbye’s to Mildred… He’s in my gang… he isn’t sucked in like the other fuckers, he’s cutting it dead….
I open the door to the common area of the building and I find an obstruction. Bun and I force the door and find the alcoholic hippy from downstairs lying unconscious on the floor. He’s disheveled and I notice his teeth have been smashed out. I could do without this. This’ll push her over the edge in the last moments before I go over the top…
After we stop laughing we drag him to his feet, dish out the expletives and chuck him in his own door. I pick up his teeth and chuck them in after him.
As expected Mildred is hiding in the flat terrified…. She’s heard the commotion and thinks death is imminent. Bun says his goodbye’s and leaves me to it with a ‘good luck’ pat on the shoulder… in 48 hours it will be over.
We sit in silence for a long time. Half the living room is filled with boxes of my stuff stacked up and ready to go. I’m not moving very far so I’m expecting some fall out in the next few days. Finally she breaks the silence:
“You’re not really going are you?”….she looks serious…
“Yes mate I am. Do you remember that bloke who came and transferred the mortgage to you? That was real. All that stuff in boxes will be gone on Saturday and you need to understand that.” It’s a painful moment but reality is required….reality is always required. It had sunk in as no tears appeared. It was real.
The day I move out she leaves early…. She’s not interested in witnessing it and neither would I be. I use a mini cab on a shuttle basis to move in six trips. It’s only a 10 minute walk away but as it’s my manor I feel I should remain in the area with the mates who believe me and not her.
And then it was done….
The last box is in the new/old flat and the cabbie is paid for the easiest job of his life. I’m in a flat I had left four years before with a can of lager and a load of boxes. I sit with the radio and start to go through the boxes. She has all the photo’s and all the joint purchased music the very lifeblood of any relationship… the memories and soundtrack of that period of your life and I didn’t ask for any of it and didn’t want it which says it all.
Then there’s a knock at the door… It was inevitable.
I open the door and she is standing there. She rushes past me, up the stairs and walks around all the rooms in silence before bursting into tears and leaving at pace.
And that was that….
I conceived this blog as I was clearing out the loft and realized that in the 25 years since I left my parents’ house I had no good memories of a large section of that time. All there is are a few photos a note in a copy of the ’The Fellowship of the Ring’ from a man from the Crystal Palace thanking us for putting him up for Christmas. There’s no ticket stubs, no CD’s, no nothing.
I’m not blaming anyone for this other than myself as I chose the path of hedonism over intelligence with someone not suited to me. I expect no sympathy….
The four years with Mildred were pretty poor and contained a moment of such taxing emotional tragedy that I can never forget her. It’s a deathbed memory even if I can eventually forget the tears and the bullshit. It’s my curse…
Am I harsh? Probably. I’m glad that I’ve maintained healthy friendships with all the people I’ve been ‘involved’ with. That would be impossible with her…. Too teary….too selfish…
I think it is important to embrace the past relationships we have as part of the journey. If you get involved with someone it’s forever whether you stay with them or not. Those memories exist and they play a part in your life for better or worse. I’d like my kids to know that it can go wrong but you do recover and do move on.
Deep down she was probably a nice person but I only had that in flashes. Instead she chose needy, snidey and ultimately nasty which is normally the ‘run for your life’ trigger. I was blind to this and it proved the stupidity was mine and mine alone from the outset.
I’m not one for turning back the clock to erase the past but if I was this experience and the traumatic event specifically would have been the moment for the rubber in more ways than one.
So…. I had escaped mentally scarred and beaten from the season of the bitch, with a diminishing friend list and Jen wasn’t ready for to take the dip into my plasma pool yet.
I had gone backwards. I needed mates or perhaps flat mates….. I need to tap up the Mancunian with the Black Balsam….
….now that sounds like a title for a blog…