I have blogged about UE before. I am probably repeating myself. Potter off and make coffee. Come back at a later date. I need to write about him again. Mainly so that I don’t shove him in a blender and flick the on switch.
I try not to moan about UE too often. I loved him enough to marry him once. All told we were together for about 12 years. Some of it was spectacularly joyous. Some of it, the opposite. But he is the father of my girls, and as they are both being quiet at the moment I can say, hand on heart that I will always be grateful to him for that. The girls adore him, and he does his best to be a good dad to them.
Since our divorce he has worked with me to be as much a part of their lives as he and I can tolerate. There are difficulties. There are always difficulties, whether you’re married or divorced, but in the main we work through them in as civilized a manner as we can. We contine to speak to each other. He pops round for cups of tea. There is the odd occasion where he can still be terribly kind and thoughtful, even to me, and I was the one who left him. I would say, in the grand scheme of things, that we are much more successful at being divorce than we ever were at being married.
He is however, rather an eccentric character. ‘Fancy that!’ I hear you cry. Because of course I was never going to end up hitched to Mr. Joe Average now was I? He lives life on a large scale. He lives life to his own set of rules. He has never been great at conformity in any way. He gets crazed obsessions which he follows with a singularity which can be alarming, particularly if you are being dragged along in their wake. The interesting thing about these obsessions is that when he is in the thick of them he is able to reshape the world mentally so that whatever it is he is waxing lyrical about is the answer to world peace, the arms race and whatever happens to be ailing you, whether it be cheese making or Zen meditation. If you say for example: ‘I’ve got a terrible case of black fly on my carrot seedlings. I just don’t know what to do about it.’ He will suggest rubbing them lightly with a piece of over ripe Brie or getting fourteen monks in saffron robes round to surround them in a circle of positive energy.
I applaud enthusiasm and commitment. It gets a lot done. But it can be very tiring to live with, because with UE at least there were issues:
An obsession usually only lasts about six months on average, so if the world does not change within that six months there are huge disappointments to be dealt with before the next hobby horse appears, neighing on the horizon.
If you live with UE you have to become equally enthused and on message, or you are accused of being ‘resistant’ and ‘not pulling your weight’. It does not matter if you are allergic to Brie, there will be reasons why you have to do it anyway. Usually concerning the homeopathic ideal that the only way to cure an allergy to Brie is by eating fourteen tonnes of Brie and seeing what happens next.
When I use the word obssssion I do not use it lightly. When he decided that learning hypnosis was the way forward I swear on my mother’s life to you that I caught him trying to hypnotise the cat and Matilda. Matilda was only six months old. The cat was profoundly unimpressed. This did not put him off one iota.
He has no off switch. When he decided to embrace the idea of lateral thinking, as posited by mind guru Edward de Bono, he would wake me up at two in the morning and say things like: ‘If it takes four men two days to dig a hole four metres by three metres, how many weeks will it take a donkey to climb Macchu Picchu?’ Then he would get cross when I would hit him and go back to sleep.
There is no sense of proportion. Whatever mind maggot he is wrestling with is THE most important thing in his life. Bar none. We have been on holidays where the whole holiday was hi jacked by his latest enthusiasm. I spent a week in Paris with him while he sat in a bar in Montmartre drinking double brandies. Then we spent a week in Prague where I sat eating cake alone in tea rooms while he went to every Czech meeting of AA in the city. I was woken repeatedly from my hotel bed on a long weekend away from the children, booked so that we could sleep without interruption. I thought he was having a convulsive fit, but it turned out that he was merely practicing Robert Anton Wilson’s energised meditation routines on the bathroom floor, with a light bit of primal screaming thrown in.
Now that he does not live with me I look forward to hearing about the latest bee buzzing around in his manly bonnet. It is never dull. The only time it becomes problematic is if his thinking or actions start to spill over into the girls’ lives. It happens. Lots of times his enthusiasms are not suitable for small girls, like the time he decided to train to be an instructor in the Brazilian martial art, Krav Magar. Krav Magar is basically vicious street fighting, using any weapon you have to hand. It is gussied up by donning nice outfits, but it is brutal thuggery. I do not approve. I don’t care if he wants to spend his weekends having his brains smashed out with a chair leg in the name of sport, but I do not want my children doing it. For a long time he argued the toss with me. He wanted them to learn it because it would make them confident. I pointed out that it would also make them lethal, and instil in them a total disrespect for boundaries and the belief that harming other people was justified if they looked at you in that way. I do not like the idea of a teenage Tallulah, rocket fuelled on tequila slammers, practicing her Krav Magar techniques on some helpless, lovelorn boy. I painted a vivid word picture of him having to visit her in prison. He relented, grudgingly.
A benefit of his lifestyle is that he is away a lot. When he decided that he needed to explore his charitable side, he jetted off to South Africa for six weeks to help build a hospital. When he returned he told me that he thought South Africa would be a great place for me to take the kids for a relaxing holiday. I asked him about the high levels of crime, the machetes, the car jacking and the fact that most foreigners live in compounds. He said: ‘Yeah! Well. There is that.’
He is just back from six weeks in America and Canada, doing what I am not entirely sure. Before that we were in Canada for nearly six weeks. He has seen the girls for about a day in the last three months. They are desperate to see him.
One of the issues I have with him is that he always schedules what he wants to do first, and then expects you to fit around his schedule. He has no regard whatsoever for the fact that you might be doing something more important or that you couldn’t just cancel whatever it is you are doing. He is also lousy at scheduling.
Before he went away I asked him if he wanted to schedule time with the girls for when he got back. It never happened. I haven’t managed to pin him down over dates to see them while he has been away either. The girls knew he was coming back this week. They were so excited, and kept asking me when they were going to see him. I couldn’t say.
It is Tilly’s birthday on Sunday. We are having her party today, because I am away on Sunday at the theatre. I did not book the ticket myself by the way. I am not that mean. I was going to have her party on Saturday, but my parents are away. Hence today.
UE rang me two days ago asking if he could have the children on Friday night. I said no, because of the party. I suggested he could have them at the weekend. He is too busy. I suggested Friday afternoon. This is not very convenient for me, but it is important to the girls to see him. He said yes. Great. I rearranged my day.
On Wednesday afternoon he rang me.
UE: ‘How does Tilly feel about indoor sky diving?’
Me: ‘Ummm. I can’t really say. It’s never come up in conversation.’
UE: ‘Yes! Well! It’s very cool. I thought I would take her for her birthday treat.’
Me: ‘Well I think it is also quite a marmite experience. I suggest you talk to her about it first.’
UE: ‘Oh! Well I was just going to book it for Friday afternoon. It will be great.’
Me: ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’
UE: (greatly surprised) ‘Why not?’
Me: ‘It’s expensive. She might hate it. She has her party in the evening and you can’t be late dropping her off.’
UE: ‘Oh. Well. I’d really like to take her.’
Me: ‘Yes. I know. But then what are you going to do with Tallulah?’
UE: ‘What do you mean?’
Me: ‘You haven’t seen her for six weeks. You can hardly turn up and take Tilly away, and just wave casually to Tallulah as you leave. She will be devastated.’
UE: ‘Oh! I hadn’t thought of that.’
UE: ‘Oh. (big pause while he painfully lets go of the indoor skydiving idea for now) O.K. Maybe it would be better if I talked to her first anyway.’
Me: You don’t say.’
I’m probably the only divorcee in the world who has problems with ex husbands who are starting an obsession with indoor sky diving. It’s not like I can go to a self-help group.
I suppose I should be grateful that it’s not outdoor sky diving.