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Rediscovery and Recovery Ch. 05

Chapter 5: In the Pub and What Happened Next

Em got to the pub before me, but was waiting for me in the car park. As tempted as I was to start asking questions, I kept my counsel; the evening had already taken so many different and unexpected turns, I didn't want it to take a wrong one.

I slipped my arm around Em's shoulder and gave her a quick squeeze and again she turn to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. We went into the pub together, and it struck me that this was the first time we would have ever have been for a drink together. We were both well under age to drink alcohol last time we socialised in the same crowd, but in any case, any swimmer drinking alcohol was frowned upon. We were athletes, we were in training, we were expected to stay sober and to keep poisons out of our bodies. We ordered, myself a pint of bitter ale, Em a glass of white wine spritzer, and chatted about our drinking habits whilst waiting. We quickly discovered that whilst we both enjoyed a drink, neither of us had ever enjoyed being drunk - a throwback to the athlete perhaps, or just that's how we'd been brought up. I can actually count the number of times I've been blind drunk on the fingers of two hands, and I don't think I've ever 'not known' what has happened of an evening. Yes, I've done some very stupid things under the influence of alcohol (mercifully most before the advent of social media and permanent record), but I never saw the point in the sort of excess which the current generation seem to enjoy, the binge drinking and associated hedonism.

Finding a quiet corner to sit together, Em looked at her watch and announced that we had just about 60 minutes to tell each other everything that had happened in the last 15 years. So, given the impossibility of the task, we agreed to give each other 10-minute potted histories, and leave the detail to another time. Em insisted I went first and, well, my story wasn't much different to that which you have read in this account. I tried very hard to be fair to Eve, to not make her out to be a villain in the piece, because really she wasn't. What happened, happened as circumstances dictated and as humans responded, with all our imperfections and all our mistakes. But I did find myself wanting to draw sympathy from Em, primarily for 'being abandoned' by my wife. Was I? I don't know to this day. Em listened, without judgement, I think; I didn't know at that point that her story would be at least on a par with mine.

Having finished Em said That was twelve-and-a-half minutes so I'm having that amount too. And off she went. I'll tell it second-hand rather than trying to capture her voice.

A year behind me in school, Em had finished her A-levels the year after me, but though gaining two A-levels with moderate grades, she had no interest in a university education. For a long while, she had been considering nursery or pre-school teaching and the local Further Education college had a well-regarded course in Early Years Education, two-years full-time, fully funded and with a small bursary attached for the 'in-class' work experience. Em's parents had said she could live at home 'for as long as you like, but we'll throw you out when you hit 30', and so making ends meet wasn't a big problem. At the same time as doing the course, the swimming pool had given her work as a lifeguard and as a teacher to the 4-6 age group for their lessons (actually, quite lucrative, since some of the more affluent parents would happily pay a good rate for their spoilt brats to be given small-group attention; teaching 6-10 hours a week at £4 an hour put as much pocket money in Em's hands as she needed at the time). Em continued to swim for the club until she was 21, but like me before her, by then had had enough.

Having finished the diploma course, Em got her first job quickly as a nursery teacher at a small but thriving operation (one at which she'd had a placement whilst at college). With anything between 12 and 30 pre-school children, aged 4 months (yes, seriously!) to 4 years, Em's hands were full, literally so at times. And she loved the work. Colleagues came and went over the next 4 years, some lasting no more than a few weeks, but Em had found not only a job but a vocation. At the age of 24, Em realised that to move forward in nursery care, and especially if her ambition to open her own nursery was to be realised some day, then she would need more than the initial diploma; further qualifications and accredited certification were a must. So, switching to part-time employment (still supplemented by teaching swimming to the little ones, still subsidised by parental home comforts) she returned to college for a further two years of part-time study.

It was during this period that she met Jim or James. (Em might not thank me for this observation, but I noticed that for the most part of story from this point, if something nice or supportive was said about Jim, then that was his name. If something not-so-nice was being recounted, the name used was James. I decided at that moment that I would not, ever, say E-mil-y if I was annoyed at her.) I'll call him Jim.

Jim was studying civil engineering, two years younger than Em, but by all accounts a 'bit-of-a-catch'. Civil engineering in the week, rugby player at the weekend (and for that matter two nights a week), Jim was every bit as sporty as Em, every bit as fit, and they seemed made for each other. Em readily confessed to me that she had fallen for Jim quickly; her first boyfriend of any serious description and, though by no means the one to take her virginity (an ill-advised short relationship during college, first time round), certainly her first lover. Even listening to Em talking, I could hear that there was residual affection for Jim, and I wondered if I'd conveyed any similar sentiment in my description of Eve. I would, Em was sure, get the chance to meet Jim; it is most unlikely that she will ever meet Eve. Anyway, they dated their way through the years of study, and emerged with their vocational qualifications. Em went back to full time early years education, and started thinking of how and when she might branch out and become her own boss, with a small set up of her own. Jim, clearly good at his level of his chosen field, was also employed, but with a company which required occasional travel to the various building projects to which he was assigned.

It's one of those small quirks of semi-rural life that both Em and Jim had continued to live with their respective parents, or rather Em with hers and Jim with his mother (divorced from Dad). As their relationship developed, so too their acceptance in each others' homes. Granted, Em's dad wasn't best pleased the first time Jim stayed over (and they stayed at Jim's family home more often), but everyone seemed to accept things as they would be.

I could hear the 'But' coming from a distance!

But... Despite outward appearances, Jim had something of a problem with commitment. I have to get this right - as Em insisted I understood it. It wasn't that he didn't love her, that they weren't compatible. But Jim had seen his father walk out when he was ten years old, a complete surprise to him then, and still, that two people seemingly so alike, so in love, so comfortable in each others' presence, could suddenly decide that 'actually, we're a bit bored with this, time to move on'. Jim was secretly petrified that this would happen to him and Em.

Emily explained to me that she tried increasingly serious and life-changing moves to get Jim to understand how she thought their relationship was for keeps. In a move straight of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' it started by her proposing that if he was worried about divorce, she would be happy to not marry in the first place, just as long as they were together and could, at some stage, move on from being 'couple' to being 'family'. Almost four years into their relationship (longer than the marriage of some friends), Em suggested, successfully, that it was time to move and get a house together, a shared mortgage on a small two-up two-down starter home. Em was almost 28 years old at this point, and though not worrying about her body clock unduly, was certainly worried that if for any reason she could not make Jim stick (and there seemed to be no logical reason why not) then time to find another prospective father for her children would start running out.

Like I said, I heard the 'But' of her relationship with Jim coming from a long way out, but the next turn of events made me jump a little for its familiarity, and I prayed again that I had not painted too bad a picture of Eve and her actions. Because Emily now confessed to me that, without Jim's knowing, she had stopped taking oral contraception. They had, after all, spoken about children, and the circumstances for it were coming together. Jim had received a promotion of sorts at work, such that Em could afford some time away from her work; they could afford family as well as home. And so it was that Em became pregnant, and nine months later, give or take a 10-day wait and an induced birth, their daughter, Daisy, was born.

Em had gambled that a common law relationship, a shared mortgage and a family would pin down her man. With real sadness, she told me that she had lost her gamble, and that as much as Jim loved his daughter, he really could not play happy families; he'd not had one himself, had too little of experience to draw on by which he could trust himself. With Daisy barely six months old, Jim had moved out; six months later, they had sold the house (mercifully for a decent profit) and Em and Daisy moved to the flat which they now rented. Jim continued to visit at the weekends and for a while, they would even sleep together if the mood allowed. But, Em explained, a proper family was not going to happen.

And then, another little surprise in Emily 's narrative, and for this, I'll try and remember how she said it:

You'll be wondering whether Jim's lack of commitment was evident in his other behaviour, whether he was faithful to me when we were together. [I had not thought about it in those terms exactly, but yes, I had been wondering]. The answer is that, at the time, I had no idea. A little bit of me blocked even the possibility; I may have been subconsciously ignoring the evidence, I really don't know. But during the break up, hints were made - by Jim himself - that 'I shouldn't be trusting him anyway', or phrases like 'I don't deserve you and Daisy, so it's best if I go'. It transpired that he was making references to other liaisons which had happened over the years (even when I was pregnant with Daisy). Several years earlier, he'd seen a girl who lived in Reading, on and off, as his company sent him there for days at a time over a nine month period. It was Jim's mother herself who told me this, by the way, she'd known all along. Didn't think it was her place to say when we were together, but as we were splitting and she blamed Jim, she thought I 'deserved to know'. Wish I didn't to be honest. And then, one of his rugby mates thought it humorous to drop some jokes about the lads on tour and the old 'What goes on tour stays on tour' line. Jim's embarrassment cost him his place in the conspiracy of silence; I could read his face. Yes, he'd been involved in various night-time activities over the years. But Jim was insistent: these bouts of unfaithfulness (if that's how we interpret it) were the result of his fear of commitment, not the cause of it.

Anyway, all that was four years ago. We're friends now, with a shared daughter; Jim's seeing the sister of one of his rugby mates, someone who is quite happy with a fit bloke to shag and no thoughts beyond her trophy boyfriend. Said girlfriend is also quite friendly with Daisy, provided she can give her back to me on a Sunday afternoon, which is exactly how I want it - as does Jim as it happens. He's a good, if limited dad, he pays his share without the courts ever having to tell him, and he respects me and my parenting decisions too. But then, as he told me often enough, I'm the one who is a fully qualified minder of children Daisy's age; just wait until she hits 13...

With this, I leaned over to Em's side and took the initiative to kiss her on the cheek. And said:

If she's anything as good as her mother was at that age, she'll make you proud!

We shared other news over the next half an hour and with a second round of drinks. I told Em a little of my new job as well as one or two of my funnier school stories from London days. We shared genuine admiration for each others' abilities to handle different age groups; primary and secondary teaching are different enough - nursery is a complete mystery to me, of course.

Having finished our drinks, a decision was to be made. Food or no food? Sit down meal or take-away. It was now just after 11 pm and the Indian Restaurant would still be open - happy to serve as long as a customer was paying, as a rule. I asked:

'How hungry are you?'

'Enough to know I want to eat, and honest enough to say that if we go straight back to the flat with a take-away, the food may end up getting cold!'

'Fair enough' I replied, and we agreed to sit down in the restaurant for a small, manageable meal, with one more drink each. We'd be in not long after midnight, with the benefit of another hour's company and chat. As planned, we left the cars at The Plough and walked to the Anarkali, a medium-quality, medium-priced Indian restaurant, which served the very British version of Indian food, in what had become something of a standard British ambience. A place where most of the townsfolk had eaten their first 'Chicken Korma' and progressed to Biryani and hotter dishes, and where several generations of drunk teenagers discovered that if you order a Vindaloo it's unlikely that you'll taste the main ingredients on their way down, but receive sphincter burns as they find their way out.

We went in, sat down in a small booth, ordered drinks and nibbles and I swallowed hard before saying:

I've been trying to find the courage to ask for an hour: what part, if any, did my mother play in arranging our meeting tonight?

Em smiled that delicious smile and broke into another giggle. John, your mother knows you and loves you deeply.

Em got up: I'm just going for a wee, and when I come back, I'll tell you all. She leaned over me as she passed and kissed my forehead.Chapter 5: In the Pub and What Happened Next

Em got to the pub before me, but was waiting for me in the car park. As tempted as I was to start asking questions, I kept my counsel; the evening had already taken so many different and unexpected turns, I didn't want it to take a wrong one.

I slipped my arm around Em's shoulder and gave her a quick squeeze and again she turn to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. We went into the pub together, and it struck me that this was the first time we would have ever have been for a drink together. We were both well under age to drink alcohol last time we socialised in the same crowd, but in any case, any swimmer drinking alcohol was frowned upon. We were athletes, we were in training, we were expected to stay sober and to keep poisons out of our bodies. We ordered, myself a pint of bitter ale, Em a glass of white wine spritzer, and chatted about our drinking habits whilst waiting. We quickly discovered that whilst we both enjoyed a drink, neither of us had ever enjoyed being drunk - a throwback to the athlete perhaps, or just that's how we'd been brought up. I can actually count the number of times I've been blind drunk on the fingers of two hands, and I don't think I've ever 'not known' what has happened of an evening. Yes, I've done some very stupid things under the influence of alcohol (mercifully most before the advent of social media and permanent record), but I never saw the point in the sort of excess which the current generation seem to enjoy, the binge drinking and associated hedonism.

Finding a quiet corner to sit together, Em looked at her watch and announced that we had just about 60 minutes to tell each other everything that had happened in the last 15 years. So, given the impossibility of the task, we agreed to give each other 10-minute potted histories, and leave the detail to another time. Em insisted I went first and, well, my story wasn't much different to that which you have read in this account. I tried very hard to be fair to Eve, to not make her out to be a villain in the piece, because really she wasn't. What happened, happened as circumstances dictated and as humans responded, with all our imperfections and all our mistakes. But I did find myself wanting to draw sympathy from Em, primarily for 'being abandoned' by my wife. Was I? I don't know to this day. Em listened, without judgement, I think; I didn't know at that point that her story would be at least on a par with mine.

Having finished Em said That was twelve-and-a-half minutes so I'm having that amount too. And off she went. I'll tell it second-hand rather than trying to capture her voice.

A year behind me in school, Em had finished her A-levels the year after me, but though gaining two A-levels with moderate grades, she had no interest in a university education. For a long while, she had been considering nursery or pre-school teaching and the local Further Education college had a well-regarded course in Early Years Education, two-years full-time, fully funded and with a small bursary attached for the 'in-class' work experience. Em's parents had said she could live at home 'for as long as you like, but we'll throw you out when you hit 30', and so making ends meet wasn't a big problem. At the same time as doing the course, the swimming pool had given her work as a lifeguard and as a teacher to the 4-6 age group for their lessons (actually, quite lucrative, since some of the more affluent parents would happily pay a good rate for their spoilt brats to be given small-group attention; teaching 6-10 hours a week at £4 an hour put as much pocket money in Em's hands as she needed at the time). Em continued to swim for the club until she was 21, but like me before her, by then had had enough.

Having finished the diploma course, Em got her first job quickly as a nursery teacher at a small but thriving operation (one at which she'd had a placement whilst at college). With anything between 12 and 30 pre-school children, aged 4 months (yes, seriously!) to 4 years, Em's hands were full, literally so at times. And she loved the work. Colleagues came and went over the next 4 years, some lasting no more than a few weeks, but Em had found not only a job but a vocation. At the age of 24, Em realised that to move forward in nursery care, and especially if her ambition to open her own nursery was to be realised some day, then she would need more than the initial diploma; further qualifications and accredited certification were a must. So, switching to part-time employment (still supplemented by teaching swimming to the little ones, still subsidised by parental home comforts) she returned to college for a further two years of part-time study.

It was during this period that she met Jim or James. (Em might not thank me for this observation, but I noticed that for the most part of story from this point, if something nice or supportive was said about Jim, then that was his name. If something not-so-nice was being recounted, the name used was James. I decided at that moment that I would not, ever, say E-mil-y if I was annoyed at her.) I'll call him Jim.

Jim was studying civil engineering, two years younger than Em, but by all accounts a 'bit-of-a-catch'. Civil engineering in the week, rugby player at the weekend (and for that matter two nights a week), Jim was every bit as sporty as Em, every bit as fit, and they seemed made for each other. Em readily confessed to me that she had fallen for Jim quickly; her first boyfriend of any serious description and, though by no means the one to take her virginity (an ill-advised short relationship during college, first time round), certainly her first lover. Even listening to Em talking, I could hear that there was residual affection for Jim, and I wondered if I'd conveyed any similar sentiment in my description of Eve. I would, Em was sure, get the chance to meet Jim; it is most unlikely that she will ever meet Eve. Anyway, they dated their way through the years of study, and emerged with their vocational qualifications. Em went back to full time early years education, and started thinking of how and when she might branch out and become her own boss, with a small set up of her own. Jim, clearly good at his level of his chosen field, was also employed, but with a company which required occasional travel to the various building projects to which he was assigned.

It's one of those small quirks of semi-rural life that both Em and Jim had continued to live with their respective parents, or rather Em with hers and Jim with his mother (divorced from Dad). As their relationship developed, so too their acceptance in each others' homes. Granted, Em's dad wasn't best pleased the first time Jim stayed over (and they stayed at Jim's family home more often), but everyone seemed to accept things as they would be.

I could hear the 'But' coming from a distance!

But... Despite outward appearances, Jim had something of a problem with commitment. I have to get this right - as Em insisted I understood it. It wasn't that he didn't love her, that they weren't compatible. But Jim had seen his father walk out when he was ten years old, a complete surprise to him then, and still, that two people seemingly so alike, so in love, so comfortable in each others' presence, could suddenly decide that 'actually, we're a bit bored with this, time to move on'. Jim was secretly petrified that this would happen to him and Em.

Emily explained to me that she tried increasingly serious and life-changing moves to get Jim to understand how she thought their relationship was for keeps. In a move straight of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' it started by her proposing that if he was worried about divorce, she would be happy to not marry in the first place, just as long as they were together and could, at some stage, move on from being 'couple' to being 'family'. Almost four years into their relationship (longer than the marriage of some friends), Em suggested, successfully, that it was time to move and get a house together, a shared mortgage on a small two-up two-down starter home. Em was almost 28 years old at this point, and though not worrying about her body clock unduly, was certainly worried that if for any reason she could not make Jim stick (and there seemed to be no logical reason why not) then time to find another prospective father for her children would start running out.

Like I said, I heard the 'But' of her relationship with Jim coming from a long way out, but the next turn of events made me jump a little for its familiarity, and I prayed again that I had not painted too bad a picture of Eve and her actions. Because Emily now confessed to me that, without Jim's knowing, she had stopped taking oral contraception. They had, after all, spoken about children, and the circumstances for it were coming together. Jim had received a promotion of sorts at work, such that Em could afford some time away from her work; they could afford family as well as home. And so it was that Em became pregnant, and nine months later, give or take a 10-day wait and an induced birth, their daughter, Daisy, was born.

Em had gambled that a common law relationship, a shared mortgage and a family would pin down her man. With real sadness, she told me that she had lost her gamble, and that as much as Jim loved his daughter, he really could not play happy families; he'd not had one himself, had too little of experience to draw on by which he could trust himself. With Daisy barely six months old, Jim had moved out; six months later, they had sold the house (mercifully for a decent profit) and Em and Daisy moved to the flat which they now rented. Jim continued to visit at the weekends and for a while, they would even sleep together if the mood allowed. But, Em explained, a proper family was not going to happen.

And then, another little surprise in Emily 's narrative, and for this, I'll try and remember how she said it:

You'll be wondering whether Jim's lack of commitment was evident in his other behaviour, whether he was faithful to me when we were together. [I had not thought about it in those terms exactly, but yes, I had been wondering]. The answer is that, at the time, I had no idea. A little bit of me blocked even the possibility; I may have been subconsciously ignoring the evidence, I really don't know. But during the break up, hints were made - by Jim himself - that 'I shouldn't be trusting him anyway', or phrases like 'I don't deserve you and Daisy, so it's best if I go'. It transpired that he was making references to other liaisons which had happened over the years (even when I was pregnant with Daisy). Several years earlier, he'd seen a girl who lived in Reading, on and off, as his company sent him there for days at a time over a nine month period. It was Jim's mother herself who told me this, by the way, she'd known all along. Didn't think it was her place to say when we were together, but as we were splitting and she blamed Jim, she thought I 'deserved to know'. Wish I didn't to be honest. And then, one of his rugby mates thought it humorous to drop some jokes about the lads on tour and the old 'What goes on tour stays on tour' line. Jim's embarrassment cost him his place in the conspiracy of silence; I could read his face. Yes, he'd been involved in various night-time activities over the years. But Jim was insistent: these bouts of unfaithfulness (if that's how we interpret it) were the result of his fear of commitment, not the cause of it.

Anyway, all that was four years ago. We're friends now, with a shared daughter; Jim's seeing the sister of one of his rugby mates, someone who is quite happy with a fit bloke to shag and no thoughts beyond her trophy boyfriend. Said girlfriend is also quite friendly with Daisy, provided she can give her back to me on a Sunday afternoon, which is exactly how I want it - as does Jim as it happens. He's a good, if limited dad, he pays his share without the courts ever having to tell him, and he respects me and my parenting decisions too. But then, as he told me often enough, I'm the one who is a fully qualified minder of children Daisy's age; just wait until she hits 13...

With this, I leaned over to Em's side and took the initiative to kiss her on the cheek. And said:

If she's anything as good as her mother was at that age, she'll make you proud!

We shared other news over the next half an hour and with a second round of drinks. I told Em a little of my new job as well as one or two of my funnier school stories from London days. We shared genuine admiration for each others' abilities to handle different age groups; primary and secondary teaching are different enough - nursery is a complete mystery to me, of course.

Having finished our drinks, a decision was to be made. Food or no food? Sit down meal or take-away. It was now just after 11 pm and the Indian Restaurant would still be open - happy to serve as long as a customer was paying, as a rule. I asked:

'How hungry are you?'

'Enough to know I want to eat, and honest enough to say that if we go straight back to the flat with a take-away, the food may end up getting cold!'

'Fair enough' I replied, and we agreed to sit down in the restaurant for a small, manageable meal, with one more drink each. We'd be in not long after midnight, with the benefit of another hour's company and chat. As planned, we left the cars at The Plough and walked to the Anarkali, a medium-quality, medium-priced Indian restaurant, which served the very British version of Indian food, in what had become something of a standard British ambience. A place where most of the townsfolk had eaten their first 'Chicken Korma' and progressed to Biryani and hotter dishes, and where several generations of drunk teenagers discovered that if you order a Vindaloo it's unlikely that you'll taste the main ingredients on their way down, but receive sphincter burns as they find their way out.

We went in, sat down in a small booth, ordered drinks and nibbles and I swallowed hard before saying:

I've been trying to find the courage to ask for an hour: what part, if any, did my mother play in arranging our meeting tonight?

Em smiled that delicious smile and broke into another giggle. John, your mother knows you and loves you deeply.

Em got up: I'm just going for a wee, and when I come back, I'll tell you all. She leaned over me as she passed and kissed my forehead.

recovery   and   rediscovery  

Apr 29, 2018 in romance

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