Thursday, December 09, 2004

Some Questions Answered

Thak s for asking the questions you guys so I'm going to try and answer them. In order of importance.
How drunk do you have to be to sleep through a fire and a crashing tree?
Well I would say pretty much horizontal which isn't very hard when you're drinking the old "Ron agricole". It's like paint stripper. You can not possibly drink it neat. In a mortar and pestle we ground up mint leaves from the garden with brown sugar, martine added her secret ingredient which I suspect was some sort of fruit cordial then the rum. I am loathe to really call it rum. because it's nothing like any rum you've ever tried. You could use it for drag racing. O-60 in a fleas cough.

But I digress trying to avoid the real questions. How and when did I move in with Caherine? I never actually moved to France completely. I have my own business to run. For ages I would go to France to visit her without her husbands knowledge and I'd stay in Hotels. After a while it proved to be awkward. A little limiting. At the same time Catherine was feeling guilty about hiding me from her husband. At this stage they were already sleeping in seperate beds. I'd arranged to go and see her and our usual 'otel was fully booked so in desperation she called on another 'otel. It was shut for the weekend. She told the manager we were desperate for a room. he said "OK I'll leave you the keys to the Hotel we're going away for the weekend. Pick any room you want."
I couldn't believe it when Catherine told me. But we drove to the new hotel and sure enough under a flower pot were the keys to the Hotel. We went in. It was very dark only the emergency lighting was on. We had a bit of fun wandering around looking for a room, after all we had the choice of the whole hotel. We chose the penthouse suite. Obviously. The one with the big bath with gold taps and the biggest bed.
It was before this visit that Catherine told her husband about me. So he knew I was coming to France to see her regularly, every month.
Catherine had to go to work and sort out her kids so I stayed in the Hotel. She came back "André wants to meet you."
"WHAT?"
"He wants to meet you."
"You have got to be joking."
"No I don't make the joke. He wants to take us to dinner."
"OH shit!"
Only the previous week he had been threatening to kill me. He was going to go to prison, he didn't mind as long as I was dead. So I was understandably a little nervous and apprehensive about this meeting. What was he planning? Did he want to get me to the house see me in person and then take out a big knife and stab me to death. After reading about his rantings in Catherines letters it was a possibility.
"No he just wants to meet you. He wants to know what you're like."
"Shit Shit Shit!"
Catherine seemed quite calm about it, so I quickly calmed down myself. I agreed. After all I didn't want to be seen as scared. I'm English we're scared of nothing. So I'm told.
At the appointed hour we drove to the house. The children were all at school it was midday. I took a deep breath and marched with Catherine to the front door. She opened it and standing in the hallway was André.
"This is it." I thought to myself.
André just held out his hand "Bonjour." he said.
I shook his hand it was all very civilised but very uncomfortable.
Catherine and her husband talked briefly about where we were going to go for dinner, they quickly agreed on a place, it wasn't far. Thank God!
The restaurant was a cross between a proper restaurant and an up market transport café. We sat down at a table Catherine and me on one side of the table and André the other.
He said "You look good together, very natural."
Why was he being so nice?
We ate dinner with forced conversation. I had a couple of lagers and it got easier, until in the end we were laughing and joking.
We drove back to the marital home and went in. André turned to me and said "I 'ave a present for you."
"Vraiment?" I said surprised.
He turned round and picked up a book and handed it to me. It was Ernest Hemingways "Paradis Perdu" Paradise Lost. I don't know to this day if he meant it as a subtle message. I've never had the occassion to ask him. But he is a clever guy so maybe it was a subliminal message.
So the meeting was over handshakes all around and we went back to the Hotel.
Now I mentioned before that catherine worked for an Artist, Martine Cotten. She lived on a farm in a converted barn. She had a spare flat that wasn't being used. IN conversation she said to Catherine that perhaps we might want to rent it for when I was in France. It would be cheaper than using Hotels.
So from then on whenever I was in France, Catherine and I stayed at this flat. It was wonderful. Martine wasn't always there and she never locked her doors even when she went abroad to work. We had the run of her house and the flat. We all became best friends.
Previously Catherines relationship with Martine was just as employer and employee but after we took on the flat we all became friends. Very good friends. Over the five days each month I was in France we'd take it in turns to cook the evening meal, either Martine would cook, or Roman her son would cook or catherine and I would cook. But we all sat down together and ate.
ON saturday when Catherine was working, I'd have dinner with Martines Mother and the farm labourers. Her Mother would always pour me out an aperatif, usually a very stiff whiskey. Followed by the obligatory red wine with dinner. Dinner consisted of home grown vegetables and plenty of meat. Followed by bread and cheese and more wine. I don't know how the farm labourers carried on working after dinner. I had to go and sleep.

To put you in the picture I went to France every month for five days. I left England on Thursday morning and flew out from Stansted to Dinard. I came back Monday afternoon. I did this for two years. So in fact I never lived with her permanently. I wished I could.

It was about that timne the Child Support Agency was on everybodied case. I had come to an amicable agreement with Vikki for child support. Shge was happy with it and so was I it seemed fair. But then the CSA poked it's nose in. They were threatening to take me for every penny I had. It was at that time when every week there was another story in the press of some poor sod committing suicide because the CSA had destroyed his life. You see they take more than half your wages from you and they give your ex spouse the minimum. So for instance they might have taken £200 from me but only given Vikki £60, because she was claiming benefits. So Vikki would have been worse off and I would have been devastated financially. I went off the radar. I became a non person. I still lived and worked in Peterborough, but I wasn't on the electoral role. I was "of no fixed abode" so they couldn't find me. I can't vote. I suppose that's the only thing that's affetced me since I went off the radar.

If they had caught me I would have said "Sod it! I'm going to France and take my chances." But while I had a moderately successful business here with a guaranteed income, it was better for me for my ex-wife for my children to stay. I also had pressure from my family. I run the family business. Without me it's nothing. My brother, my niece and my parents rely on me for their income. It's a terrible thing to be torn between loyalty to your own family and your love for the girl of your life. Who happens to be French and living in France. INitially we thought that Catherine would move to England with her chidren and live with me here. But her husband vetoed that one. He would not let the children leave the country. He had that power. We tried to argue that Catherine could legally move to Marseilles and be twice as far from him than if she was living in England. But that didn't sway him. We promised him visiting rights and holiday time for his children but still he would not be moved. He was stubborn with capital letters. He threatened to take custody of the children. Catherine was crying when she phoned me about it. I told her to see an advocate a solicitor. The solicitor told her she hadn't a leg to stand on, she would lose the children. You see France is a predominatley a catholic country. The family is all important. Affairs are very very common in France. They are famous for it. But the family is all important. So the thinking behind it is, that if Catherine left the family home for me, she was the unstable partner. Andre the husband who was always there was considered in French law the stable partner. So the likely hood was that he would get custody of the children. Catherine could not take that chance of losing her children. I was savvy enough to know that although Catherine loved me to death her children were more important than I was. I knew that and I accepted that.

So after two years together she reluctantly went back to her husband and "dumped" me. It wasn't nice. It wasn't nice for either of us. But I knew her children were more important than I was. So now they live together. In seperate beds in seperate rooms, She works nights while he works days so she doesn't have to see him that much. But she still has her children. They eat at seperate times. She says she 's not hungry deliberately so she doesn't have to sit down and eat with him.

He is still telling her that one day she will learn to love him again. But it isn't going to happen. They are poles apart in interests and attitude. He is basically antisocial and very wary of people. She, like me, loves to have friends and go to dinner parties and hold dinner parties. She can't have friends. Since I last saw her two years ago she hasn't been out.She hasn't been to a dinner party. She has no friends because he wont allow it. All she does is work and exist.

We speak every week on the phone, sometimes twice a week. The last time I spoke to her which was last Tuesday, I asked her "Is there any point me waiting for you?"
She said "Yes of course. You are mine and I am yours."
I don't mind waiting. Especially as I'm having a great time being single. People tell me I should settle down. Find someone who is available, not someone who isn't. Stop wasting my life. But I would go to my grave waiting for this girl. She is so special.

I know there are those amongst you who are in marriages of convenience. It might have started out as being the love story of all time, but now it's just a drudge. Well now I am 46 I am not prepared to settle for second best.
If I can't have what I want then I don't want anything. I can have my shag buddies, but they will never have the true me.

So come on, keep them questions coming. I don't know how many I answered tonight. But I had a good stab. What else do you need to know?

iPod now playing Local boy in the photograph by The stereophonics

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