Friday, February 20, 2009

Home Movie

A couple of days before a strange woman with an intense look handed me a letter outside my house claiming she had slept with my husband, I happened upon an erstwhile favourite film of mine, 'Broadcast News'. It was late at night, I was already tired, but in spite of the dated look - big hair! big shoulders! - I became hooked once again by Holly Hunter's charming portrayal of an intelligent, lonely woman who allows herself just a few minutes every so often to reach for a box of tissues, take the 'phone off the hook, and weep.

So that's who I remind myself of now.

Oh, I operate, I really do. It's incredible, really. I hold down my two jobs; I trouble-shoot my first big community arts project; I deal with innumerable administrative problems; I handle the sensitivities of others; I take Anna-mouse to school, I read with her, talk with her, laugh with her; I applaud her sellotape and string collages: I take her to London, to the hospital to see Esme, who has had her hip done; I try to make Esme's life easier; I discuss logistics with the Bim - flats - the pros and cons of furnished versus unfurnished, and just how very cheaply you can pick up a pan set these days... and slowly, slowly let everyone know who needs to know that we are parting, for good, but that it is amicable, and we are remaining absolutely firm friends.

People are happy with that. It's a nice, pat ending and easy to deal with, and after all most of them are desperately relieved on my behalf - they never quite 'got' the relationship in the first place.

It is not like that for me. I am sadder than the saddest thing. I am a skinful of waiting tears. Finally the anger which has coloured my life for months now is abating, and the real hard stuff is taking hold. I find it much more debilitating, much lonelier, more difficult to contain at the same time as running this busy life. Anger propels; makes decisions shine with brilliance; takes people's breath away when they see its force whip through you - especially when they don't know where the energy's coming from. I got much better at my job when I was angry: I could function - often better than before.

But this. This is hard. The house is calmer, granted, now that the tension which gripped this little family for months has gone. The Bim and I are kinder to one another. He has labelled himself a 'crap husband' but a 'good friend', and I have to concur. I just need to remember I'm losing only the former, not the latter, because at the moment it feels as though everything has been lost. All that I wanted so very much. And all that I tried to keep together for so long.

I don't think I write sentimental posts very often. I hope there's usually some kind of edge. But tonight I've no edge left. Tonight I'm Holly Hunter, playing Jane Craig, playing myself.

Tonight, I so regret to say, I'm starring in my own film.

Friday, February 13, 2009


It's getting dark, a couple of days after the snows, and I'm standing outside my house, finishing a conversation on the mobile with my mother Esme. I've been getting an especially bad work day out of my system before entering the domestic world within.

It's cold, Ma, I'm going to go in now, I say. The curtains are drawn, it looks cosy, and inside are Flo, my salt-of-the-earth neighbour who minds Anna-mouse when I can't, and Anna-m herself, waiting for me to come home.

So I hang up and reach for the porch door and just as I my hand gets to the handle I hear a voice behind me say Livvy.

I turn and there is a woman there - what, my age? Taller, fuller of face, not unattractive, intense. I think she must be one of the school mums, but I can't place her. I rack my brains for how she might know me.

Hello, I say, warmly, pretending greater acquaintance than I feel.

She comes closer, it all happens so fast. I didn't know whether to write this, I'm not proud of myself, I'm really sorry, I think she says.

She hands me a letter, holds my gaze meaningfully for a moment or two longer, then quickly goes.

Something really strange just happened, I say as I walk in the door. Flo comes towards me with a tea towel in her hand. These things, these tiny things, they stick with you, you know? Like Anna-mouse's little face, smiling up at me.

Oh, there was a strange woman come to the door about an hour ago, Flo says, did she look like... Yes, I say, she did.

When she appeared the first time she had knocked and asked for me and wouldn't leave a name, Flo said. Flo had thought it odd, and even odder as the hour went by the more she thought about it, so when I walked in with the letter she said I think you'd better sit down, Liv.

I tried to protest, and, even as I did so, began to open the envelope.

I read just three lines there, with the two of them standing looking at me:

I have been wrestling with my conscience for some time as to whether or not to write this, but have decided to go ahead, so here goes. My name is S--- and I am a work colleague of your husband's.

I look up. I am staggeringly calm. I know that this is it. I know that life isn't going to be the same.

I think I do need to sit down, Flo. Would you just watch Anna-m for a couple more minutes, I'm going to go upstairs.

I sit on the edge of the bed. I read it once. It's enough: a woman has waited over an hour outside my house to hand me a letter in which she tells me she has had an affair with my husband during precisely those weeks I thought he and I were making a huge, ultimate effort to repair our marriage. I don't care if it's true or not (he still swears blind it is not). Enough.

I am getting out of this soap opera, I think, and go instantly back downstairs. I have a daughter to play with, I have the supper to cook.

I am, of course, in shock. My heart is ice. I round the bottom step, and as Flo looks up at me, her big dear eyes full of concern, the moment is set forever as I feel the last tired, frayed thread running between myself and the Bim
cleanly, keenly, irrevocably snap.

It's over, Flo, I hear myself say

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

We Need Buttons

School cancelled, work off, all three of us. We played the snow scene:


Bagged, we keep them,
stubbly as unkempt chins.
Like stones they sit -
cold, silent;
no two ‘poppies’ the same.

To take one middling,
grainy lump he removes
an outsize glove,
plunges deep his Irish hand,
feels the ancient history.

We hear the thud -
a juicy cut makes two
damp stampers
for her to press
into the snowman’s

She calls him Bert.