Coupling up…or Disentangling…

There must be a reason why the popular press loves to dollop liberal helpings of news about celebrity couples all over their pages. Does it make enjoyable reading because relationships are what interest the public more than anything? Who is with who? Who has had a baby? Who has been seen on holiday cavorting in the waves with who? And even more riveting: Who has split up with who? Who is having an affair/threesome/visits to prostitutes/paedophile allegations? Recently we’ve seen the split of Hollywood royalty ‘Brangelina’ as well as having to suffer the odious Donald Trump crowing about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions [of years ago-and for which he paid a hefty price].

You have to feel for the poor celebs. Their relationships have to weather the storms of fame, being in the public eye, having to undergo endless photo shoots for ‘Hello’ magazine, having loads of money and getting photo-zapped by stealthy paparazzi whilst exposing their flesh on expensive yachts. One or two famous couples have also amassed more children than the old woman who lived in a shoe by jetting around the world and hoovering up spare tots like flies on a window sill.

But what of we mere mortals? Observing couple behaviour is an interesting slant on people watching and a sport I’ve been enjoying during the time we’ve been away. Unless it’s an arranged marriage a relationship will usually have begun with some mutual attraction or downright lust from one or both partners. The lust gets tempered over time for a variety of reasons. Babies are renowned passion killers as are domestic chores and financial duress. For some couples, however this round of domestic obligation can be the cement that sticks them and an adhesive that fails once the chicks have fledged and the pair realise that the sprogs was all they had in common. I know a number of these.

Many couples, however seem to stick together even though nothing remains or they’ve forgotten why they became one to begin with, sharing their accommodation and little else. In our local hostelry the same individuals [almost exclusively male] can be seen any or every night of the week, leaving spouses to their own devices. Most people don’t want to be joined at the hip, and a few different interests in retirement is a good idea, but some seem not to have contact at any point, like the couple in a motorhome in Agde, France, one of whom spent each day cycling and the other inside watching TV. I’ll leave you, reader to imagine which half of the couple indulged in which activity.

Separating is scary and expensive for we commoners, more so in older age, but myself I couldn’t contemplate living the meagre remainder of my life with a cold vacuum of relationship in which the property we occupied was the only thing in common.

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Who wouldn’t want a Wacky Wedding?

The story that grabbed most of my attention this week was the Pastafarian wedding. This was held in New Zealand, at the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The wedding was conducted on a pirate ship with guests and groom in full pirate regalia and the bride sported some groovy headgear featuring a colander.

This is impressive. Not only has the couple flouted tradition and stuck a finger up to the fantasy of organised religion but the wedding has been sanctioned by the New Zealand government to boot! From what I can gather, Pastafarians believe that one may as well have faith in a deity that formed the Earth from pasta and meatballs as one that accepts the dead coming back to life or getting seventeen virgins for becoming a martyr.

I would think this couple stands a very good chance of having a prolonged and happy married life which, as we old marrieds know is enhanced by retaining as much of a sense of fun as possible and lacing the union with a healthy dash of cynicism.

Husband has his own theory on the subject of weddings and marriage [from observation rather than any rigorous scientific study]. It is that there is a direct correlation between amount of money spent on ‘The Day’ and duration of marriage. This is to say that more money=less years of matrimonial bliss. This may come some way towards explaining why the cost of our own nuptials amounted to the princely sum of thirty five pounds [exactly the price of the marriage license]. We rose, dressed [in clean, but previously worn] outfits, drove to the register office, met the two friends who’d been coerced into witnessing and did the deed.

The meeting with the [somewhat bemused] registrar was a little tricky due to his producing a small cushion for us to deposit the rings. Husband [pre-Husband at this time] looked bewildered and told him we didn’t have any rings. I feel I showed great presence of mind at this point by offering to use the ring I’d used for my first wedding. This isn’t as bad as it sounds because it had been my paternal grandmother’s ring and although I’d used it for my first marriage I had simply transferred it to the other hand when all turned to ratchet. It had only, now to be returned to my ring finger. The ceremony lasted all of fifteen minutes then we were off across the road to the pub, where my friend unveiled the secret objects she’d been carrying in a supermarket carrier bag-a cake plus a carving knife.

We returned home, married, to prepare for a proper knees-up that evening. It just happened to be my birthday. In spite of spending the princely sum of thirty five pounds we have managed to stay married-for a whole thirteen years-not the accumulation many of our peers have amassed but creditable for ‘second-time-rounders’.

Mr Hyde, I Presume?

An old friend who now lives on the Spanish Mediterranean coast rang last week to ask if he could stay. He is splitting up with his wife.

This is awkward. A number of issues jumped into my mind. Husband and myself are both ourselves ‘second-time-arounders’. This couple, both in their sixties are the first friends we made twenty years ago together, that is to say not friends from one of our previous lives. They are, or were both our friends. I had no desire to be taking sides, neither did we want to appear to be judgemental in any way [having ourselves been in their situation many years ago].

Being the hospitable folk we are we concurred, offering our best guest accommodation with the en suite. They had, after all accommodated us when our leaking, malfunctioning camper-van rolled up on their driveway several years ago. He arrived.

After a relatively short time I began to realise that while his political views and many of his likes and dislikes had always been at odds with ours we’d got along fine, except that now, without the tempering, conciliatory presence of his wife he is a different person altogether. His loud ebullience, once an asset to raucous nights at the pub has become overbearing and intrusive. He is unaware that we may be reading or writing, butting in with the tales of his current predicament, his medical conditions or immigration.

He explained that he has ‘not been happy for a long time’ in the marriage. He wasted no time in regaling us with the details of his testosterone levels and how he needs medication to help him satisfy his new girlfriend-the real cause of the gash. All this is far too much information. There was a much needed interval while he went shopping, returning with a substantial haul of medicines which he heaped into a pile in his room; then we were plunged back into his views, gleaned from the red-tops he reads or commercial news stations, his love life and money issues.

We continued to accommodate, murmur, provide and feed him, even when he threw himself into my own, favourite, comfortable chair with the TV remote control to watch football and comment loudly that I was eating a ‘big’ bowl of salad [whilst he chomps through the chilli and rice I have made].

My good intentions not to take sides blew away on a blast of hot air. Out of earshot I rang my friend, his wife. She is staying with another friend, too upset to see anyone. ‘How had she managed forty-five years with him?’ I asked her. ‘He is a monster. I’ve struggled to get through two days with him. She should get shot of him, ASAP’. She agreed he is difficult, but unchecked, his disagreeable traits have become exaggerated and offensive. When I told her she will be better off without him she replied that I was not the first to say it.

Husband whispered to me that relief was at hand. He would be leaving us after the weekend. We shared a grin of relief. We had only to spend an evening at a restaurant [he took us for a ‘thank-you’ meal] and then our duty would be despatched. The meal [our chosen venue] was good. His excesses were a little tempered. I drove him home. If there is a next time we will be a] very busy b] away or c] have a houseful of guests. Phew!