Category Archives: Marriage

On the First Date of Christmas…

Welcome, friends, to the twelve dates of Christmas. Is this not an exceedingly nifty festive idea? (Thank you to Rockstar Diaries, from whence I thieved it.) And especially needed this year, as well: Henry commandeers so much of our attention – and rightly so, because he is delightful – that I find myself entering December and missing my other half. I need to do better at finding balance. And making time for twelve little outings (or innings; it doesn’t matter which) seems like an excellent way to start.

So, here goes: piano introduction, please.

On the first date of Christmas…

…we took ourselves off to London for the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It turned out to be light on wonder and heavy on curried sausage and terrifying fibreglass Santas. But we still had tons of fun.

He sets his beard in rollers every night.

A bit of cheek tickling from adopted Auntie Em goes down a storm.

Sweeties!

A wooden tie! What I always wanted.

Merry Christmas, Hippy Wizard.

Corridor of Gloriousness, Green Park.

Where we did NOT eat lunch. But wanted to.

What, more escalators?

Photos are Instagrammed. Cheers, big ears.

I love London. I love the grandeur of it. The architecture, and the crowds, and the history-0h-the-history, and the Tube, and the fact that you can’t walk two streets without stumbling across another free museum or art gallery. We do London on our birthdays, so it’s full of celebratory memories. It’s lucky I’ve never lived there, because I’d never want to leave. Thankfully Henry seemed to like it just as much, even making so free as to vomit copiously and explode through his nappy in Pizza Hut.

I’m excited for eleven more of these, especially in the company of this guy.

Happy December to you!

Why the Doctor’s Noticeboard Has Been Forever Ruined; Thanks, Timothy

…I can’t look at it without remembering the special edition of Medical Noticeboard Hangman we played while waiting for my last check-up.

Sample guess words:

postnatal  .  meningitis  .  depression  .  emergency  .  confidential  .  chlamydia 

Thankfully my name was called before either of us used the contraception clinic poster as inspiration. It was next on my list.

Afternoons: Always Better With Robes

Today Tim’s university told him he was first class, and let him wear a fancy robe at the same time. I thought that was pretty nice of them.

I got to pull the pregnancy card twice on crowded buses and once when wangling a seat near the front of the hall. The elderly graduation marshal did a double-take when I lumbered to the head of the queue and said ‘Oh goodness, look at that! You’d better take a seat up there’. At which I was torn between yessssssss and I’m sorry: what do you mean, ‘look at that’?!

Still, don’t knock a seat at the front of the hall. These are the perks of the job. The downside: feeling like you need to emphasise a) your face wrinkles, and b) your wedding ring to all and sundry. Because when you’re a student, in a gathering of students, and you’re towing a heavily pregnant girl behind you, it does kind of look like you landed an eighteen-year-old with child. When I mentioned this to Timothy he kindly informed me that there was no way I looked eighteen, and he was pretty sure he didn’t look twenty-one.

I decided to be reassured instead of insulted.

Lovely afternoon: from the getting to leave work at 12pm, to the pizza and trifle we got for lunch (we didn’t have time to go out for dinner afterwards, and we’re the classy sort), to the air of general finery and cheer. This is quite a milestone for us – Tim’s degree has occupied precisely 100% of our married life thus far, as well as many sleepless nights and early mornings for him – so it felt like something to celebrate. He’s done fabulously. Onwards and outwards.

(An aside: I could also tell you how my hugeness today led to me actually bursting out of clothes – for real, and it was my favourite skirt and everything – but today wasn’t about me, so I won’t. But it happened, friends. It happened.)

On the Ladder

Well, lookee what today brought:

TWO gainfully employed Jeffcoats in the same house! I know: how can so much professionalism be contained in this tiny space? Other pertinent questions include ‘how come his office gets a canteen and mine doesn’t?’ and ‘is it really beyond the capabilities of high-end businesses to take a decent badge photo?’

This beautiful synergy of paid usefulness will be in existence for exactly 62 days, after which I will hang up my red pen and bow out of the breadwinning arena, as gracefully as someone shaped like a giant hamburger can bow anywhere. In the meantime, we’ve decided that it’s silly to think we’re really on two wages – that only encourages some people to buy more nice food for when some people are bored of eating raisins – so instead, one of us is earning the bringing-home-the-bacon money and the other is working for TJ. Personally, I’m quite happy to hand the bacon-bringing over to Timothy. Granted, working for a hiccupy foetus is a bit of a change from working for an academic publisher. But trading hours in the office for shiny baby furniture is much more satisfying than when I’m doing it for diesel and council tax.

I will miss my efficiently lovely house husband, I admit. You’ve never seen anyone delimescale a kettle like him. But by jingo, I love this chap in a suit and tie.

Lucky for me, he’ll be wearing one six days out of seven for the next forty years. I reckon we can squeeze at least another decade out of that shirt.

How does he DO that?

Did I mention I love this guy?

He even carries handbags for you if you ask him nicely.

This month he is in the middle of his final exams. Oh, I remember my finals with stingy clarity. The midnight hallucinations. The wearing of the same mouldy jumper for many days. The endless, plodding horror of exchanging one stack of notes for another, over and over again. Getting a head-swelling cold right in the middle of it, and covering my tiny exam desk with snotty tissues. Oh, and the extra head I grew on the third finger of my right hand.

I was not a nice person during my finals. It was not a nice time. I whinged and cried and threw things with abandon. I rained down curses on the heads of Marlowe and Wordsworth. I hated everybody. The day after I finished, I got up late, cycled into town, bought a celebrity magazine, read it and went back to sleep, and it was the best day of my life.

But oh, this Timothy of mine. He pulls all-nighters with nary a grimace, and wakes me up in the morning with porridge. He is never shouty. He is changing his clothes. Sometimes he has a Really Bad Day and, you know, snaps a bit when I ask him something stupid or pop in to show him another one of my t-shirts that doesn’t fit anymore.

It’s not that he’s unmoved by the stress, or that he doesn’t work hard – he isn’t, and he does. It’s just some people have the knack of showing grace under pressure. I don’t have it, but he has it in spades (he also has an impressive collection of spades, FYI).

Welcome to Cold Comfort Farm

Me: You know that bruise on my eye?

Tim: Yep?

Me: It’s not a bruise. I think I’m getting a stye.

Tim: Urgh!

Me: I’ve never had one before. Have you?

Tim: No, I just know they’re really huge and ugly and painful and don’t go away for weeks and weeks.

Me: Oh. Do you know how to get rid of them?

Tim: No, that’s all I know.

Me: Right.

Sometimes, it’s just better to turn to Google.

Covert Operations

A thought on marriage: this cleave-to-your-wife business is all very well, but trying to organise birthday surprises when you do everything together is a minefield. The present-buying, for starters. We have a joint bank account, which means any money I spend on presents will be recorded right next to our Tesco bills and council tax. Thus helpfully letting the birthdayee know in advance exactly where you bought their presents from and how much they cost. They can even watch in real time as you shop and gauge how much you love them from how much you spend. This does make it easier to prepare a surprised yet gratified facial expression when opening rubbish presents, but also rather takes the mystery out of it. I asked around at work how people manage to buy presents without emblazoning them on their statement; the answer seems to be that most people don’t have joint bank accounts. I find this odd. Goodness knows what I’d do with my money if I knew there was no one else looking. I can only say without doubt that Paperchase would be paying their employees a bumper bonus this year.

I decided to make things interesting by taking a secret afternoon off, going home, decorating the house with streamers and making a nice meal for Timothy’s return from work the day before his birthday. Self-evidently a plan of such cunning as to leave the vulpine Professor of Cunning at Oxford University entirely in the shade. I booked the afternoon off, teeing and heeing abominably (to quote Virginia Woolf). Ascertaining his favourite meal was easy enough: I asked, but then followed it by announcing my favourite meal in a meaningful tone of voice, as though this had been the purpose of my question. He suspected nothing. I must hint for food this way a lot. Emboldened by my success, I started scoping out birthday banners and bottles of Nando’s marinade at the supermarket. I had to do this from a distance, which meant squinting rather obviously, but again, he noticed nothing. I must squint this way a lot. I had not anticipated learning so many home truths along my pathway of deception, but there you go. I have tried to squint less since.

I nearly gave the game away entirely on Tuesday when I wrote him an email about my editor’s meeting next week. Just before I sent it I read it through, and jumped – there in the third paragraph was a casual sentence celebrating the fact that I had only three full working days this week. Such information could have blown the lid off the whole operation. Luckily I was able to delete it before I sent it. Last night, in a mire of proofreading despair, I started to console myself aloud by saying ‘Oh, at least I’ve only got a half-day tomorrow’. I got as far as the ‘Oh’ before remembering, and covered the indiscretion with a louder than usual groan. Timothy looked sympathetic (and amused), but not suspicious.

Today was the day, at last. I went off to work as normal, and slipped off at 12pm, teeing and heeing abominably. To Tesco’s for the supplies, then home for cooking, cleaning, and streamer-flinging. It all went swimmingly. By 5pm, torrential rain was falling outside, which introduced a complication: when it rains, I pick Timothy up from the station on the way home from work. Quickly I put my coat back on, grabbed my work bag, roughed my hair up a bit and – tragically – kept on the shoes I’d worn in the morning, despite their total unsuitability for wet weather. I thought the lack of car heating and Radio 4 would be a dead giveaway, but he was far too wet to notice. Just as we reached the house I noticed our neighbour’s car and said – O, fool that I am – ‘Hmm, that wasn’t there when I left.’ Idiot! I froze and added, haltingly, ‘…this morning’. He was already bringing the umbrella round to my side of the car, and wasn’t listening. In we went, in he went, wondering whether we’d left a light on, and – ta-da! Balloons! Banners! Sticky chicken of deliciousness! It was all lovely, and he was jolly pleased.

I tell you, I’m overwhelmed with relief having reached the surprise without letting the cat out of the bag. Such stress! That’s my plan for MI5 recruitment right out of the window.

Sydders

Next time I'll wear a wig.

The Family That Sprays Together, Stays Together (And Smells of Flash Bathroom, Which is an Added Bonus)

Some interesting news: this week I lost my house husband. Boo.

On Monday Timothy started his new industrial placement year at IBM, with two days of training in lovely Portsmouth. This is the beginning of a strange new phase in our lives: though we gain a second wage, I lose my back-patting status as Sole Breadwinner of Family Jeffcoat, and Tim his flexible hours and leisure time. Or should I say laundry time, because for the past year, he’s been mostly keeping the housework going in between programming and writing essays.

It’s not that I actively avoid housework. In comparison to cooking, I’m a cleaning whizz, and got a good amount of practice growing up, although I will say I’ll do an awful lot to avoid cleaning the bathroom (smell of Mister Muscle under the fingernails. Shudder). However, I have a tendency to be immensely forgetful about practical things, usually because I’m thinking about something completely removed from getting dressed/showering/making lunch, and this combined with a busy schedule means I move through the house in a whirlwind of unreplaced toothpaste caps and sagging underwear drawers. Which Timothy, bless his heart, patiently and meticulously goes around clearing up once I’m safely out of the house and can’t do any more damage. I have only realised how astonishingly and selflessly domesticated he is when overhearing conversations about other people’s comically inept partners. It honestly never occurred to me before this that some women actually have to go over a household job a second time, because their partner can’t remember to clean the oven top. Timothy always cleans the oven top. Especially when I’ve been cooking and have let the pan boil over, because I got distracted by a Really Interesting Thought about Iris Murdoch.

Anyway, now the Timothy-Has-More-Time-Than-Me excuse has been fatally punctured. We now have exactly the same amount of time available to keep the house going, i.e., not an awful lot. So I’ve had to wake up and smell the furniture polish at long last, and have been getting into the habit of filling my in-between times (hitherto filled by Interesting Thoughts) with householdy stuff. I tend to keep three or four jobs in some state of activity and flit from one to another until they’re all done. It’s probably not the most efficient way of doing things, but at least I’m going up and down stairs a lot, which can only help my exercise drive. And Timothy now comes back in the evening with the ragged but vaguely contented air of a Working Man Who Wins Bread, and knows his wife will have a little scorched something ready for dinner when he gets home. And on that subject, that’s all I have time for, folks. I haven’t yet washed up after dinner, and scorch marks take some scrubbing.

By the way, to the fellow sufferer who stumbled across my blog by searching for ‘Body pump ache will it hurt next time’ on Google, I can confirm after my second attendance that – yes. Yes it does. Welcome back to the Straight-Jacket of Ache, my friend. Let us groan together.

Money Matters…More Than Usual

Last week I discovered how dreadful it feels to fall off the wagon.

This month we are micro-budgeting. Being married for a year brings congratulations and anniversary cards and a great deal of smugness, but also annual bills: several insurance renewals later, our bank account is whimpering in panic. After a fairly depressing session with our whizzy budget spreadsheet, we realised that coming out even this month would require curtailing spending…three days previously. The debit card was immediately off-limits. I had noble visions of it becoming all dusty and decrepit in my purse.

Now, I am not a compulsive spender. I inherited my mother’s love of buying things combined with my father’s reluctance to part with any money, an uncomfortable jostly combination which usually means I buy small things on a semi-regular basis. Food, mostly. I’m not a compulsive eater either, but buying food ticks all the boxes: gratification of buying something shiny-wrappered, procurement of a sugary pick-me-up in the 3pm doldrums, and reassurance that the purchase is, after all, only 60p, so doesn’t really count. Money leaks from my purse in trickles, not bursts. I am a dripping-tap consumer.

On Tuesday my long-suffering mascara finally ran dry, and I managed to convince Tim that buying a replacement was an immediate necessity. He doesn’t understand makeup, but he does understand the depths of my vanity, so agreed. I headed to Boots, all a-quiver, to make the purchase. Joy! Rapture! The one I wanted was £8.30 instead of the £10 I had expected. That’s when I had a Wicked Idea.

I am daily faced with trial of eating sandwiches for lunch – I don’t much enjoy eating sandwiches, but they’re by far the easiest thing to fit in a lunchbox – and that day had a marmalade sandwich waiting for me back at work. I don’t know whether you’ve ever contemplated marmalade sandwiches when hungry: the marmalade can be as zesty as you please, but it doesn’t fill the soul with glee. Clutching the £8.30 mascara in my sweaty hand, I suddenly thought: I could spend the remaining £1.70 on something else. Something delicious and shiny-wrappered. Something that, most importantly, emphatically was not a marmalade sandwich. The money was already as good as spent, since I’d set aside £10. I headed to the food aisle without a second thought. After deliberating for a few minutes, my stomach called out to a tomato and basil chicken pasta salad. It was £2.80, which did not add up to £10, but by this point I was beyond reason – I feverishly handed over my debit card, which was not even slightly dusty, and scuttled off to the car with my spoils.

Oh, what a tub of deliciousness. The chicken, so chickeny and tender. The pasta, tangy with mayonnaise. The basil, so fragrant. I sat in the car and snaffled it all, and yet, from around the second mouthful, something else came stealing onto my taste buds. It was the taste of shame. Suddenly £2.80 seemed a ludicrous sum to pay for lunch I didn’t need. I thought guiltily of the marmalade sandwich waiting in my lunchbox – I could either choke it down on a full stomach, or surreptitiously throw it away and let Tim assume I’d eaten it. Then hide the Boots receipt. Then pretend my mascara had cost £11.10, and insist that this was a normal price for such an item. All these deceptions seemed to compound the offence of buying the chicken pasta salad in the first place.

I squirmed all the way back to work, then cracked and confessed via text message. Tim was not as horrified as I was; he did not, either, seem very surprised. But I felt like an alcoholic who’d broken all the virtuous promises made at her first AA meeting.

It seems that lunch is my new Achilles heel. The wages of sin might be death, so the Bible says, but the wages of chicken pasta salads are guilt and indigestion.

Real Men Do Their Crying On The Inside

Tim’s continuing recovery from the horrid mystery illness I have dubbed ‘Half Day Disease’ necessitated yesterday evening a Lord of the Rings pajama party. Under the circumstances this involved neither partying nor matching Lord of the Rings pajamas (I wish), but rather a kind of film-related slump with copious amounts of magic vitamin juice.

It’s been a long time since I last saw The Fellowship of the Ring, but I reacquainted myself with Frodo’s dopey face, Gandalf’s twinkly one-liners and the magnificent score during the dwarf-hall scene as though with old friends. During my first year of sixth form we were utterly obsessed with this film: I think in the months leading up to its release we spent more on copies of Empire Magazine than we did on lunch. Naturally we divided ourselves into the Legolas and Frodo camps, though in retrospect the lack of an Aragorn Appreciation Society seems like a serious oversight. Perhaps he had too much hair to win the hearts of seventeen-year-olds. When we finally went to see it, the first night it came out, we were overcome to the extent that a dumpy woman in black sat in front of us mistook our sobs for laughter, and roundly abused us in the foyer afterwards for ‘ruining her cinema experience’. Unfeeling nitwit.

I still cry at Fellowship, but I’ve discovered that it’s not the sad event itself starting the flood, but the sight of other characters crying. Gandalf won’t get a twitch out of me as he tumbles into the abyss, wild grey mop a-flying, but start up that wailing music and those little hobbit tears just afterwards and I’ll start to feel my eyes prickle. Boromir can take as many arrows in the chest as he likes, but I don’t break down completely until Aragorn gets a few manly trickles down his manly beard. I hoped this would make me an empathetic soul, sensitive to the pain of others; Tim labelled me an ’emotive sheep’ instead. I choose to interpret this as jealousy because he has never cried at a film in his life, though he did inform me at one point that he was ‘crying inside’.

Aragorn holds it all in

Aragorn holds it all in

 Remembering the offended harpy at the cinema seven years ago, I asked whether his ‘crying inside’ had disturbed anyone else in the theatre when he first saw the film. Oh no, he didn’t cry inside back then, he said. It didn’t occur to him to cry inside until he got married, and his wife kept demanding indignantly why he wasn’t crying at ALL during a sad film. It’s a useful response: you can cry inside without ruining your reputation or your manly beard.

And who says men don’t learn to emote within marriage?!

PS: I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin. Oh, the horror. I’ve been thoroughly disturbed all weekend, but its sheer persistence in my head only reinforces how impressive it was. Go read it! But don’t follow it with the death scenes in LoTR, because that way misery lies…

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