Chapter Twenty Four

SOPHIE

Tim and I have been married for eight years now and we’ve two beautiful little children, one boy, William, and one girl, Diana, aged 6 and 4. I chose the names as I’m a bit of a royalist and I loved Princess Di. They were quite different as babies: William was very beautiful, everyone admired him where ever we went but he was difficult; he never seemed happy on my breast, wouldn’t take a dummy and cried a lot; Di was the easiest, most placid baby anybody could wish for and she’s grown up to this pretty dreamy little girl who’s just started school. Tim was marvellous with the children. He’s a lighter sleeper than me and most of the time when Will woke in the night it would be Tim that got up for him. William’s a lovely little boy now, looks terrific in his school uniform and he’s obviously very bright.

We decided to send both children to the local village school although most of my friends’ children go to Eden House, the local prep school. Tim and I had a bit of a battle about that as I had wanted to go down the private school route and Tim wanted to send them to the local state school. Tim’s arguments were stronger. The logistics of driving the children to Eden House every morning and picking them up every afternoon when we’re both so busy would have made life difficult for us. Also Dad stuck his oar in and offered to pay the school fees at Eden House and me being me – always the rebel – that was the clincher. They both seem happy at school and have local friends which is cool and actually having children at the village school has also helped us adults become part of the community.   I hadn’t considered either aspect when I was routing for Eden House. I’d just wanted the best education for my children and didn’t want my children mixing with kids from the council estate. From what I’ve seen and heard about the village school children do very well there and I’m glad that I didn’t insist on my choice. After all they have to learn to mix with all sorts. I don’t want them growing up in a rarefied atmosphere of children of the rich.

Tim loves his life, he still adores me and he loves the children. Plants are his passion and he is slowly building up a loyal following of customers. However the business limps along from one crisis to another and takes up far too much of his time. I insisted he put a manager in the nursery because otherwise we’d have no time together. Before that he was working 7 days a week in the summer and I had to take holidays on my own. Tim takes a small wage from the business. He says the reason he can’t pay himself more is because Erwin, his manager, is creaming off most of the profit. Dad doesn’t help. He thinks Tim’s business is under capitalised and wants me to give it a boost. Tim refuses.

Tim is very proud and very stubborn, He says he wants to maintain his independence and self respect so insists on paying half of everything even though it’s a complete nonsense and he doesn’t anyway. In fact I had to buy Tim a car for his Christmas present several years ago as he only had the business van and that had become unreliable. In fact everything of value, all the nice furniture, TV and so on I’ve bought otherwise we wouldn’t have anything nice. And then there’s the house. We lived in the bungalow that came with the nursery for the first year. I wasn’t very happy there as I was used to a higher standard of living but I compromised as Tim brought that into the marriage. When we started trying for a child I started pushing to move, saying the nursery wasn’t a nice place to bring up children. I think that Tim had had enough of living on his business premises anyway and he could see sense in my argument. Then the next stage was that he wanted a place where he could get a mortgage for half the value of the property, so in theory it would be half his. When he looked into what kind of mortgage he could get with his pathetic salary he realised this idea was a non-starter. I kept telling him that we were married and what was mine was his. Reluctantly he accepted that our new family home would be bought with my money. At first he baulked at the kind of property that appealed to me. But when he realised how lovely some of these houses were he was as enthusiastic as me. It was as if he realised for the first time what you could have if you were wealthy. We bought a lovely property in the village of W-, just outside Newcastle-under-Lyme. It had five big bedrooms and was set in lovely grounds with a triple garage. I know Tim would love to have time to look after the garden but he’s had to accept that he can’t so we employ a part-time gardener. I also insisted in paying for a cleaner because there was no way I was going to do it all and Tim was never there.

So how do I feel? Really I’m undecided. I love my children. I love my house. But I’m not sure if I love my life. I had such a good time before I got married, travelling, boating, going to parties, eating at fancy restaurants. Now I’m not able to do any of these very often. We did go on a boating holiday in Dad’s boat a couple of years ago but that wasn’t a success. Dad and Tim don’t get on. Tim thinks Dad drinks too much and is too right wing, calls him the fascist. Dad thinks Tim is an idealistic fool. They’ve had some very heated political discussions. Tim would rather be on a sailing boat than on what he calls a floating gin palace and he refuses to ask Griff, the steward on the boat, for anything, saying he doesn’t agree with having servants. I was upset this trip didn’t work out as I adore being at sea, sailing into wonderful harbours like Ibiza town, anchoring in lovely bays.

In spite of me saying it didn’t work out we did manage to have some lovely times that holiday, thinking about it has brought them back. Sitting at anchor after a morning swimming, snorkelling and water-skiing behind the tender; a lovely spread of goodies on the huge table on the stern deck for lunch washed down with a few glasses of sangria; an afternoon snooze in the luxurious cabin, usually interspersed by one or two bouts of tender lovemaking. Wonderful!

Anyway Dad’s decided to sell the boat so that option isn’t open to us anymore. Tim wants to take us camping in France as he remembers how much he adored his childhood holidays doing just that. I remember he tried to get me camping years ago when we first got together. I refused then and I would have refused now if it weren’t for pressure from the kids. Most of their friends go camping and I think Tim’s been brainwashing our children. I’ve finally agreed but only if we stay in a static luxury caravan.  So we’re off to France next month.  What a comedown for a girl used to staying only in the best hotels!

The other day Tim tried to persuade me to go out into the fields and pick blackberries. I said I had tried it once when I was little and all I could remember was getting prickled and stung.

“Anyway I don’t see the point. You can buy big juicy blackberries in the shops now. Why waste an afternoon getting an inferior product, coming back scratched and stung? I’ve better things to do with my time.”

“Like shopping or watching the box,” said Tim angrily. “It’s celebrating one of our old ways of life when we were hunter gathers; it’s celebrating autumn, the time of the harvest and anyway it’s good to get some fresh air.  I’m going anyway. You can do what the hell you like.  And I’ll make some jam with my pickings – another celebration of our old way of life.”

“You’ll just end up an eccentric old fogey like John and Wendy.”

I regretted having said that as soon as the words spouted from my mouth. Tim looked absolutely furious but he didn’t say anything, just stormed out of the house with a bag to collect his precious blackberries in. I knew I’d gone too far but he seemed to be on another planet to the one I was on.

When he came back I was sat watching Countdown on the TV with a nice glass of cold Chardonnay very content. Tim made a lot of noise clunking about in the kitchen. I supposed he was making jam but I wasn’t really interested. If we’d grown apart it was his bloody fault. I hadn’t changed.

Later that night, when I’d had more time to think about things, I thought that probably Tim hadn’t changed either. After all no one really changes that much. What had changed was my perception of him. I’d deluded myself into thinking he was a different person than the one he was. I’d deluded myself into thinking I could be someone I wasn’t. I had admired what Tim stood for and thought that I could mature into a more plant-loving, country type of person who wasn’t materialistic. Now I had come to realise I was my father’s daughter, a rich girl who enjoyed the trappings of wealth and wasn’t interested in global warming, energy conservation or any of the stuff that seemed to be of major concern to Tim and Tim was that plant-loving country person

It was a pivotal moment as then I realised that my husband and I weren’t really suited. I thought I still loved him but I don’t think I admired him any more. Was that going to be terminal?

 

Next