Chapter Twenty Five


I’m proud of myself – I remembered our wedding anniversary.  We’ve been married eight years now.  I bought Sophie a card but I think she was hoping for more.  Buying things for her is always a problem for me.  She seems to have everything she needs and if she wants something she just goes out and buys it.  The reverse isn’t true, of course.  I’m easy to buy for as I never go shopping for myself.  Yet I rarely receive what I want – a new pair of gardening gloves, socks, practical things.  For instance my anniversary present today was a pair of gold cuff links.  I already have some cuff links and I can only wear one pair at a time so for me it’s not a good present.  I’m sorry if I sound ungrateful.  I think it’s because I’m finding it difficult to come to terms with Sophie’s materialism, which, if I’m honest, I find offensive.  One one hand there are a lot of people in the UK struggling to feed and clothe themselves, fishing food out of supermarket rubbish bins and so on and on the other hand Sophie buys more and more clothes, keeps changing the furniture at home and just spends money on a whim.  What the answer is though I don’t know.  I don’t feel she should give her money away.  She does that anyway, to an extent.  She’s always very generous – I’ve witnessed her giving homeless persons £20 notes several times.  I just wish society was fairer so everyone had a more-or-less equal slice of the money pie.

I’ve just reread that last paragraph.  I think I’m getting more and more like John and I also think Sophie is getting more and more like David.  I’ve certainly become more and more judgemental  and she’s certainly become more and more domineering over the years.  I try to avoid conflict so often have to bite my tongue, take whatever’s coming my way, ignore it and do whatever  I was intending anyway.  I shouldn’t complain as in truth life’s really good.  We’ve two adorable children, a lovely house and garden, a thriving nursery business, an active social life – Sophie is a great entertainer – and some lovely holidays.  I know I’m guilty of not appreciating all we’ve got as I dwell too much on the negatives.  I can’t help it though.  I think it’s the way I’ve been brought up.  I want a sustainable world with no poverty and everything that is contrary to that disturbs me.

I’ve been struggling with the Cannon family as well as with Sophie.  David just thinks that anyone can pull themselves out of the mire just with hard work and keeps banging on about it.  He doesn’t realise few people have his drive or how lucky he has been – he was in the right place at the right time.  Then there’s Craig, Sophie’s brother.  I sympathise with him.  It can’t be easy being David’s son but I can’t bring myself to like or respect him.  He’s a drunken showoff and womaniser and he mixes in the company of other rich men’s sons who all seem to have been poured from the same mould.  I find together they are unbearable, trying to outdo each other with tales of drinking bravado, sexual exploits, fast cars and so on.  I try to fit in at the annual Christmas parties but struggle and I’m sure they don’t think much of me either.  I think they all see me as an idealistic hippy.

Sophie and I have both had to compromise.  I’ve had to accept that I have to live in the style Sophie’s used to.  I realise that to most people that would not be a sacrifice but what they aspired to so wouldn’t see that as a compromise on my part.  A major compromise for Sophie was sending the children to the local village school instead of the private prep school she and her family wanted.    Fortunately that policy has been successful and she now sees that that was the correct decision.

My family have been great, Wendy particularly amazing.  John has done his bit to help too.  He managed to get a grant for enough photovoltaic cells to cover the south facing portion of the bungalow at the nursery.  He also designed and supervised a solar hot water system to keep the greenhouses warm.  We have applied for planning permission for a windmill which would make us completely self-sufficient for electricity but some of the neighbours have objected so I’m not sure whether that will happen.  Also financing it might be difficult.   If Wendy hadn’t taken on the project of growing plants for me so enthusiastically l don’t think I would still have a business.  In the early spring she produces pots and pots of crocuses, daffodils, tulips which simply fly out to customers.  Later she produces herbs, bedding plants and potted vegetable plants in profusion.  And all from one polytunnel.  Then in another bed she grows perennial plants – hydrangeas are the most successful – but she grows a number of different species and is always experimenting with new varieties.  I go over to Wales regularly with a trailer to collect whatever is ready.  I often stay overnight otherwise the day would be too stressful and I enjoy being back at my childhood home.  Somehow there I can be myself more than I can in my marital home.  Stanley isn’t often there in the week anymore.  He is following in my footsteps, doing horticulture at Rease Heath College.  He does go home most weekends as he gets homesick in Crewe.  Wendy says that he’s become very involved in the plant-growing and she’s taken to paying him which supplements his student loan.  He comes for dinner to my house at least one evening most weeks and I really enjoy his company and talking about my old college and coursework. Occasionally Teresa, Jock and Oliver come for a weekend and then Stanley will stay as well instead of going back to Wales.   We have a happy family time, playing games and having sing-alongs.  The three children get along together very well and make it all great fun.  I think Sophie enjoys these weekends too.

I’m stopping now as Betty has arrived to babysit and I need to get ready for our Anniversary celebratory meal.