Category Archives: Marriage


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I remember that time you told me
you said
‘love is touching souls’.
surely you’ve touched mine
part of you pours out of me
in these lines
from time to time

Joni Mitchell

Looking at this blog, you’d think Timothy was a supporting player. I don’t talk about him directly, much. He wouldn’t like it. But today is our anniversary, and as I look around our brilliant, beautiful, messy life to find him at the immovable centre of it all, I wonder how on earth I was lucky enough to land just exactly where I should be. Love is touching souls, and surely, oh, surely he’s touched mine. It comes out in everything I do.

Happy anniversary, Mr Jeffcoat.

I told the story of how we ended up together last year, here. I am even more covered in banana now than I was when I wrote it.


The Quest

High, hollowed in green
above the rocks of reason
lies the crater lake
whose ice the dreamer breaks
to find a summer season.

‘He will plunge like a plummet down
far into hungry tides’
they cry, but as the sea
climbs to a lunar magnet
so the dreamer pursues
the lake where love resides.

Denise Levertov (b. 1923)

I read this poem and think about early love. Because once you’ve found the person to whom you say ‘yes, forever’, then the quest is over, isn’t it?

Today I thought, no, actually, it isn’t.

Every last thing about mundane life is designed to make you forget about early love. Council tax, the little balls of hair in the corners of the carpet, nappy bags, chilli and rice for dinner. Chilli and rice is a prosaic meal. It’s not a meal for lovers. (We eat it all the time.)

When one of you works too hard and the other is too prone to fits of cabin fever, and both of you, now you think about it, spend a lot of time getting poo under the fingernails, well – keeping that intake of breath and whirling in the stomach takes effort. It’s like trying to hold a butterfly in your hands. It needs seeking out, all the time. What a heroic and beautiful thing, to seek out first love and hold it tight, the delicate flutter on the palms of your hands.

Today is Valentine’s Day, and after a week like this one, our highest of high V-day dreams involved packing the boys off to bed early enough to eat something nice. Then Sarah called in howling rain to say she was nearby, and did we want her to pop in to watch the boys while we grabbed something quickly to eat. I took out a toy car from each pocket, put on my elephant-sized raincoat and off we popped. We had a Five Guys burger and talked about where we want to take ourselves this year. It was blissful. We weren’t dressed up to the nines and they’re not sweet nothings, not anymore. But why would you want to talk about nothing, anyway? These are our everythings.

Falling in love is the easy part. Working to stay there – that takes a quest.

We can keep seeking together. I can’t think of a better Valentine promise than that.


I wanted cajun fries, he wanted regular. But we both wanted cherry vanilla Coke.  [this is love]


A little post-birthday fanfare

I’ve kind of lost the plot since our big group stomach bug last week (you know what they say: the family that shares gastroenteritis together, stays together). But I didn’t want the week to go by without giving a nod to this guy’s birthday.


Which, incidentally, was completely rearranged by said gastroenteritis, but you’d never know it from him. He’s not the whinging type, even when a Five Guys burger is at stake. (We are not the same.)

Let me tell you a story about Timothy. Just a little one. A few Sundays ago we attempted an afternoon nap, except Edward, who attempted a different cross face every ten minutes. Tim had had the boys a lot the day before – and he always, always does the early shift when Hen bounces out of bed at 6am demanding porridge – so I took Teds to settle him. After two hours, I’d rocked a lot, huffed a lot and slept not at all, and wasn’t best pleased about it.

‘It’s not FAIR’, I hurled at him once he’d woken up. Yes, really.

‘What’s not fair?’

‘Babies. I spend all day and night looking after them, and the one time in the week when I could have a proper nap, Edward won’t sleep. Why won’t he sleep?!’

Perhaps, you idiot, because he wasn’t tired? In my defence, interrupted sleep is the very boil throbbing on the nose of my existence, and, like any throbbing boil, it makes me more unreasonable the longer it’s there. As you see.

Tim took both boys away, and I huffed in bed by myself for the next hour, pointedly ignoring the chaos downstairs. Eventually I heard a knock on the door.

‘Hey’, he said, gently, a rack of homemade scones steaming in one hand, ‘are you coming downstairs?’

I did. We ate them for tea with butter and jam, watched Babe for the twenty-seventh time, and laughed a lot.

If I could choose just one thing for you to know about him, it would be this: that given half a chance he would bundle up your temper tantrum, take it downstairs, puzzle over how to make it better, and then get out the flour and start making you scones.

Also: they are amazingly good scones.

Happy twenty-eighth, favourite!

Tim's bday


Tomorrow is our fifth wedding anniversary, and I have been thinking about phases.


We are eighteen. It’s my first move away from home. I am happy here, in a way I haven’t been for a while. We’re sat in someone’s living room on a Sunday afternoon. He’s playing chess, and tries to teach me the rules. I’m terrible, though he doesn’t say so. He’s too kind, and that – more than the dark-blue eyes and the dimples and that magnificent woolly jumper – is what makes me look at him twice. Then we’re eating a buffet dinner squashed in a corner – classic Mormon singles behaviour – and someone says ‘so Rachel, tell me everything about yourself’. I say ‘everything? Well, I was born in March 1985…’ And his ears prick up, I can feel it without looking at him. Because he assumed I was older, and actually (I find out later) we’re the same age. I think to myself – probably not in so many words – my dear self, GRAB THIS WHILE YOU CAN.

We’re not-dating for an awfully long time, and then we are. It’s confusing and heart-hurting and absolutely perfect. And then he leaves for South Africa. And we look like this.

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I still can’t play chess.


We are twenty-one, and he has come back through the arrivals gate at Heathrow, tanned and skinny in a worn black suit, and back into my life as though nothing’s changed. Except everything has: I’ve finished my degree, read piles of books, moved away from home for good and found a career I think I can love. He has left Africa behind: two years of connecting with people in corrugated iron huts and walking miles in a shirt and tie under blazing suns. He has jumped off sand dunes in the Namibian desert and seen more beauty and more degradation than he could’ve imagined. We have two years of letters to show for it: casual letters, heartfelt letters, carefully non-committal letters. He’s kept all of them, and brings them back nine thousand miles in a shoe box.

And now here we are, and this is the real deal. We start talking about marriage. It isn’t the easiest thing to work out, and it’s confusing and heart-hurting and absolutely perfect. And we look like this.

Engagement (Final) - Copy

I still love the days when he wears a suit.


We are twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five. We live in a little two-bedroomed flat in the sky, all whitewashed walls and cream carpets. My books are crammed in bookcases and his African print sits above our bed. We spend long Saturday mornings eating pancakes in bed and week-nights watching movies. We celebrate birthdays in London and anniversaries in Edinburgh, in Paris, in the Forest of Dean. He works late on university assignments and has dinner ready when I come home from work. We are busy, and often stressed. But the time we get to ourselves, oh, there’s nothing like it. We fit alongside each other like we’re two halves of a whole.

Marriage is hard work, and some days we get it wrong. It can be confusing and heart-hurting. Other times – more often – just perfect. And we look like this.

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I still beg for pancakes on Saturday mornings.


We are twenty-six, and now there’s three of us. We are bowled over by what this tiny baby has brought with him. Most days I can barely see straight. He finishes university and starts work, and I stop (for now). He comes home in the evening to a toddler waiting by the gate, and me, with hair pointing in ten directions and mashed banana all over my clothes. I feel like everything I was has been dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. I feel, more to the point, quite indecently wrinkly. There are days, weeks on end when I can’t remember being the girl who wrote one hundred and two letters for a boy under African sun. And then there are moments where I look across the room at him and I can see myself the way he still sees me. I can see the boy who tried to teach me chess in a blue jumper. I can see us rattling around in a little yellow car in Cape Town, and scoffing pain au chocolat on a Parisian street. I can see him this evening, reading a story to a little boy who got his eyes. I can see it all, all together, all of it at once.

We look like this, for now. Things are about to change again.


I can’t wait for what might come next.

Socks and skylights: a story about love

For I am in love with you
and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.

Carol Ann Duffy

There was a moment, years ago. Before babies and broken nights, when just living in each other’s space, revolving in the same ordinary orbit, neither of us driving home in a cold car at the end of the evening, was wonderful luxury. I picked up his socks from the side of the bed and was amazed that we’d made it here, that we’d ever got close enough to think about each other’s socks. He closed the drawers I left open (frequently). In our clean, lovely flat. Our huge, white bed, and tiny kitchen. And all of it we’d chosen together, these bits of a life shared.

Anyway, this moment. 4am. I woke up and there was rain hammering on the skylight, wind beating against the wall in the dark to be let in. It’s a cold and lonely thing to hear in the early hours, in a new, half-empty house. I turned over and Timothy turned with me, asleep, his heavy arm settling over me. I was safe. And he would offer up all the warmth and solidity I wanted in the middle of the night, everything he had, for as long as I wanted it, because he couldn’t help being himself. And somehow, unimaginably, I did the same for him. We fit.

That was the moment I knew I’d landed in exactly the right place. I wish I could describe it better than that. But that’s only how it is in words.


There are twelve of these heart clips hidden around the house today. In a minute I’m going to have to ring him up for a clue…

Happy Valentine’s Day! We go on a bit about the hearts and flowers, but on a day that celebrates love, please know that you are fiercely loved by lots of people, whoever you are. And our lives are more lovely because of it.

Knight in noodly armour

There was an evening last week in which I really, really needed a Pot Noodle. I was on my third day without sleep, so congested my head felt like a balloon full of angry chalk, and unable to eat without feeling like I was suffocating. So I wasn’t eating. And then BAM – at 9.30pm, in the middle of our Hunted pyjama party, the light appeared. I would eat the heck out of a Pot Noodle, as long as it was chicken and mushroom flavour.

So this boy I love yielded to my rubbish hinting, changed out of his pyjamas, and went out on a Pot Noodle quest at 9.30pm. (‘Chicken and mushroom!’ I reminded him seven times. ‘The green one. It has to be the green one’.) He came back not only with a Pot Noodle but with three multipacks of crisps, some mango juice, and two bags of chocolate. We put one bag in the top cupboard we never use, ‘so we’ll forget about it, and then one evening it’ll be a nice surprise’.  Unfortunately we remembered about it the next day. That was short-lived.

I couldn’t taste any of it, and I didn’t sleep that night, either. But I knew it was delicious. And this guy, well. Ten thousand times better.


Yesterday, Henry and I went to my cousin’s wedding in Birmingham. I sat and watched them (from outside in the foyer – it wasn’t Henry’s day) as they said their vows, as they posed for photographs and came into the reception hall as husband and wife. I’m a sucker for a good wedding, aren’t you? I love the little rituals, the way I always cry when the bride turns the corner into the aisle and the groom takes a breath. I love how much it means to them, how they watch each other with wide eyes, as though they can’t believe they’re finally here.

I am sometimes guilty of wedding wistfulness, too – westfulness? Wisting? – and watch the bride and groom wishing for our early days of marriage, when the house was fresh and unbumped, and everything was so exciting. No matter where you are in your relationship, you never get that breathtaking discovery back. I was sitting, westfully wisting in the corner of the reception hall, wrestling with Henry and wishing Timothy were there, when the father of the bride got up again.

He was a small, Peruvian man who’d given his speech quietly, with pauses to find the right English word. His speech was incredibly heartfelt, with no showboating and not many jokes, and I’d liked him enormously. I wondered what else he wanted to say, now all of the speeches were over.

He said that people sometimes asked him whether he wished for the early days of marriage. They wondered how the marriage relationship could possibly stay the same after three decades and lots of children. His answer was that it never did stay the same, but that it was so much better and richer now than he could ever have hoped, right at the beginning. Why would he want it to stay the same? They had had a lifetime of experiences together that neither of them would wish away.

He proposed a toast to his wife. We all lifted our glasses. I cried like a big sap.

I drove home with my foot flat on the accelerator, knowing that Timothy was finally home and waiting for us, that we were four-and-a-half years richer for each other and that neither of us would ever, ever wish it away.

I was really glad to be home.

Something I think you might like: New Old Love

I really, really enjoyed this today.

I remember being nineteen and sat on the sofa at Timothy’s house, watching him pull his little sister onto his lap and tell her that she was a very pretty little girl. Well, swoon, obviously. I loved him for that, and his big shoulders and hands and dark blue eyes, and the way he thought carefully about everything he said before he said it, and his awful jokes, and his Sunday jumpers, and his generous unpretended niceness – oh yes, his niceness span out from him in every direction whenever he did anything at all.

It’s good for me to retell those stories to him and hear his again, to remember how it felt, and how we knew. Good for both of us. We spent an evening looking through our anniversary photographs last week and it had the same effect. I’m coming to the conclusion that marriage is an exercise in forgetting and remembering simultaneously. Some failings and arguments forgiven and pushed out of the head as soon as they’re over, so they don’t keep tripping us up. Some moments, especially those early ones, gone over and over until they rise up fresh around us and our old love becomes new again.

It’s not always easy, but I remember those Sunday jumpers, and then it is.

When good deeds go bad

– your husband forgets something that will make him late

– so you take it to the end of the road to save him time

– feeling all glowy about your kindness

– which is ok until you realise you’re wearing crazy hair and Christmas pyjamas

– getting curious looks from all the commuters

– and your baby keeps wriggling to get down

– and you’ve forgotten to bring your phone

– and then you need the loo

– and still he doesn’t come

– so you walk back veeeery slowly

– and wait at the bottom of the stairs for a while

– and at this point you have actual tears in your eyes from the loo situation

– and still he doesn’t come

– so you finally drop everything except the baby and run upstairs

– which is exactly when he arrives, picks up the package and drives off again. Obviously.

Anniversaries are the best, when they’re ours

Today is a Timothy day. Four years ago, we got married. Which means that eight years ago I decided he was the best thing since sliced chocolate chip cookie, but it took us that long to make it official.

Our wedding day was grey and blustery in the way that early March usually is, but my tulips and the bridesmaids’ dresses and the big, blowsy rose in Timothy’s buttonhole were a deep, heartfelt red. ‘Smile when you walk down the aisle’, my mother said, and so as we went in with all those eyes on us I smiled and smiled and smiled. Like I wasn’t nervous at all (not true) and like I was so happy my fingers tingled (true), and then Timothy was there on the front row, smiling and smiling too, and suddenly everything was alright.

That’s the way it’s always been, pretty much.

What can I say? He is the cheese to my macaroni, and the little chickeny pieces to my Texas BBQ pizza. He makes the best pancakes and the worst late-night back rub jokes. And if this is the way it’s going to be, then you can count me in for the long haul.

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