Sadly I am separated from my husband. Part of me working through the pain of this will involve me blogging it out. Today I am going to reflect on good times we had in our first months together. I think we bonded through having similar Northern and Catholic backgrounds. We also were both advice workers and liked to to the extra mile for our clients. I was heartbroken after a relationship breakdown and my husband helped put me back together again telling me that I did have worth and was not a fat and ugly woman even if my ex had made me feel that way when he cheated on me.
So at this time you find me in a house feeling lonely a lot of the time. I used to watch people outside my window and felt that I was completely disconnected from life and I hated that. Getting a couple of part-time jobs helped me feel like a person again but still like a failure really. The girl who had got great A-Levels and gone off to Cambridge University was now back in her home town trying to put her life in some sort of order. That was in 1998. I am struck by the irony that 22 years later I am back in that position really. Maybe it is me who as my late mum said is fundamentally rubbish at relationships!?
So I got to know my husband at work where I was an employee and he was a volunteer showing him some of the tricks of the trade when it came to debt counselling. We had an in joke about Form N244 for years. We went out to the pubs for drinks and laughter. I often paid as he was unemployed and I liked my Baileys. He was also a single father to two teenage girls at home and one who was living with her boyfriend. They were with him as they had suffered all sorts of abuse at the hands of their stepfather and it seemed their mother was determined to stay with said stepfather. I liked how before we went out he would insist on going to the supermarket to ensure he had food for the week for his family and that he also got tokens for fuel meters so he only spent what was left after that.
Inevitably the girls were a big part of our relationship. Despite the difficulties associated around their background (social worker visits, self-harm tendencies and so on) I saw them as a bonus if anything. A ready-made family for a woman who had hoped to have children but didn’t seem to be getting there any time soon. I was not a parent and hence very naive about what their needs and challenges would be but I did try my best. They would truant from school so I paid for taxis to ensure they went. Of course they were sly and would get dropped off and then go shopping instead or quite possibly redirect the taxi once they were in it. I tried to help with things like uniform and shoes too.
I remember meeting them for the first time. I had so much to drink that I could not understand why they had towels on their head as they were fresh out of the bath. I also walked out of the house with the younger one’s “Babe” mug. That didn’t go down well. However, one day the younger one asked me over for Sunday lunch. I wasn’t going to go but had an argument with my mum. I felt so upset but also knew my husband would be there for me. So I put myself on a bus and went to his council flat. He was embarrassed as he was in his most casual of clothes. I think it was a red track suit. The Sunday lunch was good and I felt happy again.
It took a few weeks before I met his oldest daughter. She arrived at the flat and when her dad introduced me she merely replied “I have heard about it already”. Hardly the best start but I am still in touch with her from time to time so I guess we navigated that weird beginning.
I was soon spending more time at his flat than at my own place. I have memories of playing Town and Country with the girls which was their thing. I introduced them to the concept of an indoor picnic using the ironing board as a table. I also turned up with a load of cleaning materials and we scrubbed the house together as a surprise for when their Dad returned home. I ended up bringing precious treasures like a microwave oven and a video recorder from my place to theirs. One day my husband cleared out space in his green wardrobe so I had space and a drawer there of my own. I used to find myself calling at a store called Bodyline day after day to buy underwear and changing at work until I got more organised. We had fun watching videos and going out for meals at places like the Little Chef and Frankie and Benny’s. My husband said he knew he loved me as he could walk around Ikea with me without getting bored. Love is lol! I remember going to see Les Miserables with my dad and then getting a taxi back to be with my husband.
If we were working late, we would call at a coffee place called Priestley’s in Birstall. These are such lovely memories along with standing waiting for takeaways with the girls. I think I was the one who introduced my husband to the delights of charity shops too. He was very patient with me as I take an age when bargain-hunting.
By now it was clear we wanted to live together. I remember looking at a huge flat over a takeaway which we really liked. There was also a great place called Gothic House (that name had me smitten straightaway) but it was not big enough for all of us. I think we also looked at an former council house. Eventually my husband heard of a house going behind his favourite pub and that takes us to our next chapter together.