Tag Archives: Anniversaries

Six

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I remember that time you told me
you said
‘love is touching souls’.
surely you’ve touched mine
’cause
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.

Short notes from Paris, part III

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un:  The Louvre, the Louvre! Home of straggly-haired Tom Hanks waxing foolish about cryptology! And, you know, some exciting art. We got there via the padlock-adorned Pont des Arts – rather lovely, I think – and queued behind a hysterically enthusiastic Japanese crowd who stopped at every turning to take a photo of the back of someone’s head. We photobombed as many as possible. It only seemed right.

deux: The Louvre is huuuuuuge. Really, really, really big. You can’t hope to do all of it without serious museum fatigue. We started in the Denon wing and whooshed down corridors to check off the Mona Lisa before the crowds got too bad. You kind of have to look at the Mona Lisa so that you’ve looked at the Mona Lisa. It’s so small, and behind so much glass (and people’s heads), that we moved on quite quickly to appreciate the marvellous Italian medieval and renaissance art around it.  Oh gosh, oh gosh, there was a set of Botticelli frescos that were out of this world. The Greek and Roman art rooms were also wonderful, not least because they resulted in the best photo of all time.

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Oh, and then there’s the French sculpture galleries, which are my favourite in the whole place. After this we were so overwhelmed we went home for a nap. Because we are cool.

trois: Trying to find a restaurant on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees is like trying to find one on Oxford Street: you can look as hard as you like, but eventually you’re going to end up at an overpriced Angus Steakhouse. The French version of Angus Steakhouse was an expensive Italian that didn’t sell pizza. We tried not to think about how many Domino’s pizzas we could’ve ordered for the same price. Though the food was good.

quatre: Oh hey, do you know how you get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? I’ll tell you. You walk. No coward, I, but 284 steps and one angry pelvis later I thought I was dead. Ah, the view, though. After 6.30pm, the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is alight, the Arc is illuminated with ghostly yellow and the whole city spreads out underneath. Including the Eiffel Tower, and if there’s one downside about going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it’s that you can see everything but the Tower itself. We froze and took a million photos, and enjoyed it all immensely.

cinq: There is probably nothing in the world better than strolling through quiet, darkened streets towards the Eiffel Tower, and the metro home. When I’m old and want to remember being young and carefree and romantic, that gentle half-hour, hand-in-hand, is the one I’ll bring to mind. I will also remember the victory glow of realising we walked nearly ten miles by the end of the day, and uncracking fossilised muscles in a hot bath before bed.

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Short notes from Paris, part II

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un: Sleep without 6am toddler alarm. Oh, my. Sleep of the heavily sedated.

deux: No matter how hungry you are, you can’t get through more than two-and-a-half proper pain au chocolat for breakfast. They are as big as a human foot, and twice as calorie-laden. They are also so delicious I could eat one a day for the rest of my life, and I would laugh with abandon even as I developed Type 2 diabetes.

trois: Our morning stroll through La Marais took us to Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris, and we looked round Victor Hugo’s house at the bottom end. I couldn’t tell whether the furniture was actually his, or has been curated from contemporary pieces. It seems a bit odd for Victor to put a giant bust of his own head in the dining room, and I can’t quite believe that his legs were so short as to need a three-foot-long bed. Still, you know artists. With tiny legs and that massive forehead, he must’ve been a gift for cartoonists.

quatre: After gelato, we headed for the Musee d’Orsay. The walk wasn’t long, but then it was. Terribly, horribly. Because I’d forgotten to schedule a toilet break, and these days that is serious business. We walked along the Seine, partially for a change of scene, partially so that if I really was about to pee my pants (and worse, oh, much worse) I could at least do it under the comparative privacy of Pont Neuf. The cobbles didn’t help. When we reached the museum, I was making noises only dogs can hear. Then the queue was about five hours long. No, it wasn’t. But by the time we got inside, through security and to the ticket office, with me jiggling and groaning all the way, it might as well have been. I don’t know the French for ‘please don’t make me stain the floor so close to a Van Gogh’. I wish I did. 

cinq: If I am good enough to get to heaven, I want it to look like the Musee d’Orsay. The building is stunningly beautiful. The paintings are the sort that make you cry when you get close-up. We also saw the exhibition on Dark Romanticism, which turned out to be an unsettling, twilit wander through Goya and the gothic. It was all just magnificent, and I wanted to embrace the nearest Rodin and tell it I’ll love it forever and ever. After this we went home and found an incredible creperie for dinner, and it was basically the best day of my entire life.

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Short notes from Paris, part I

…with French bullet points, because that’s just how continental I am.

un: Today I learned that a) my English tendency to apologise is magnified tenfold when a guest in another country; b) when I blurt-apologise, I do it in English; and c) saying something in a French accent does not make it French. My French accent, by the way, puts me somewhere between Marge Simpson and someone telling an inappropriately dirty joke. I keep getting these startled looks. Luckily Timothy speaks enough French to put right any misunderstandings (‘non, monsieur, she’s just trying to order sausage-and-mash…’).

deux: I love the Paris Metro. Whose idea was it to make the tickets tiny and pretty, so you feel like you’re being admitted to a secret tram-appreciation club? The downside is that the French, it seems, do not believe in letting pregnant ladies sit down. I try not to be a treat-me-special baby-carrier, but on some occasions I wish I could strap a foetus and a gallon of amniotic fluid to someone’s torso, and see how they like being crammed into someone else’s armpit.

trois: Our district is a maze of streets where cafe follows art gallery follows old bookshop. There are about twenty art galleries on our road alone. How do they all stay afloat? It’s not like you get too fat for your paintings and need to buy larger sizes. In the evenings it buzzes with people and smells like a thousand delicious foods, all of which I wish to throw into my mouth, and for this, we love it.

quatre: We ate dinner in a little bistro we found recommended by Lonely Planet. It was delicious, and not too nose-stingingly expensive. SCORE ONE FOR THE CUSTOMISED MAP. My mashed potato turned out to be about 80% cheese, and believe me, this is a ratio I will emulate in my own cooking from now on. I’m afraid I can’t talk about the creme brulee and apple tart that followed. The feelings are still too raw, now it’s too far away to buy more.

cinq: Late at night, we took a boat down the Seine and watched the lights float past the window. Lovely, lovely. Being Henry-free apparently makes us sillier than any two adults approaching thirty have any right to be, and our camera was already full of arm’s-length self-portraits. In between these, we managed a few of the Eiffel Tower. About halfway down the river it started sparkling like a demented Christmas ornament, which apparently it does now. I suppose it wanted to branch out a bit. Dream big, Eiffel Tower! Dream the impossible dream!

Coming in part II: a pain au chocolat/human anatomy size comparison, Victor Hugo’s tiny legs, and a bathroom emergency within spitting distance of actual Van Gogh.

Five

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.

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I still love the days when he wears a suit.

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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.

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I can’t wait for what might come next.

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.

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.

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