Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Taking a Chance

Our first weekend together, he not only locked me in but abandoned me for the entire day. I’ve never been conventional, but this behaviour did make me wonder what he was capable of.
I met Himself through mutual friends who lived in Cornwall. I was living in Devon at the time but came down to help make a short film at the Celtic Village near Chacewater. Among straw huts, thick mud and cameras we began talking and I soon forgot that he was old enough to be my father. The next day he invited me to see his workshop, full of gardening equipment, old cars and jewellery making equipment. He was a tall, lanky fellow with a beard, white hair and mischievous blue eyes. Someone that I immediately felt comfortable with.
Several weeks and a few phone calls later I received a letter addressed to Dear Curls, inviting me to spend the weekend on White Heather, his 100 year old wooden oyster boat, moored in a stone walled dock near the Pandora, a thatched waterside pub. The letter ended, “I even have a hot water bottle on board and funnily enough it has the same name as me.”
‘How thoughtful!’ I cried, showing the letter to a friend who looked at me darkly.
‘Flowerpot,’ she said gently. ‘I don’t think he’s got a hot water bottle.’
As indeed, it turned out, he hadn’t.
That first night Himself and I spent hours talking before collapsing into bed at 3.30am. Early the next morning he made me tea and toast and left to visit his very ill mother. Exhausted, I was glad to lie on deck in the hazy sunshine and read the morning away, lulled by the gentle rocking of the boat.
Later, I managed to negotiate the horrifyingly steep gangplank and decided to explore the surrounding woods. It wasn’t until I got in the car to go and buy some cigarettes that I realised I was a prisoner. The five barred gate to the dock was firmly padlocked, and I had no key. At that moment it started raining and I wondered how long I would be marooned in this isolated spot with only suspicious swans for company.
I returned to the boat, sat uneasily below decks, and just as I was beginning to give up hope, Himself skipped across the gangplank. ‘I’ve brought you a sex toy,’ he cried, handing me a Cornish piskie that he’d made from Cornish tin. (To be worn around my neck, I should add.)
I soon discovered that life on board was very different to life ashore. Cooking was done on a single gas ring, lodged on a lump of cast iron ballast. The toaster was a piece of wire bent into a diamond shape and attached to a stick; anything else was cooked in sequence, in a variety of saucepans. Our first morning he earned my sleepy delight by offering to teach me how to make toast in exchange for sex. Well, I thought happily, how could I resist?
One day, Himself collected me from the train and stopped on the way back, taking his time to roll a cigarette. He kept glancing skywards and eventually, thinking he’d gone mad, I looked up. There on a telegraph pole was a handwritten sign proclaiming I LOVE CURLS, and my mouth dropped open. Quite an original declaration. The sign, and Himself’s love life, became the subject of intense scrutiny in the community from then on.
For the next two months, I spent every weekend with him, wrapped in a cloud of lust. His friends were intrigued at the much younger woman in his life (he was 56 to my 38 years) but no one thought it was serious. My friends and family laughed at this whirlwind romance, and my work colleagues grew resigned to me arriving starry eyed and exhausted on a Monday morning straight off the Cornish train.
One day I got off the train at Truro to find a figure standing on the platform dressed in a blue suit, dark glasses and peaked cap, clutching a hand made sign saying LADY FLOWERPOT. He’d come straight from his mother’s funeral and this was his way of cheering himself up: dressing as a chauffeur in order to collect his new lady love.
One Sunday Himself was unusually silent. I grew worried, and was almost relieved to be going back, but at the station he said, ‘I’d like you to think about moving down here.’ On the journey home, my head span. What did he mean? I’d been too dumbfounded to ask. Did he mean live with him on White Heather? Marry him? Babies? What?
By the time I arrived home there were six messages on my answerphone, all proclaiming undying love. As I knew he was ringing from the pub, I didn’t take these too seriously, but the next day, when these messages were reiterated in a sober frame of mind, I thought again. I loved his intelligence, his quirky sense of humour and his unconventionality, and while I didn’t doubt my feelings for him, I was less sure of his for me. I’d had several unhappy relationships – but this felt different. Why not take a chance? What did I have to lose other than a broken heart? I ignored those who urged caution, took a deep breath and gave in my notice at work.
My mother thought I was mad, jacking everything in to live with a much older man, whom I’d known for three months. But had she known him better, she would have realised how serious he was when they met. Gone were the t shirt and elderly cords, the socks and sandals. In their place a new pair of trousers, white shirt and tie and proper lace up shoes. Towering over my minute mother, this erudite man stuttered greetings and stared at the ground. To my amazement, my sophisticated mother seemed just as incapable of conversation, and eyed each other warily, no doubt calculating the risk factor.
As there wasn’t enough room on White Heather for me, my computer and my cat, we had to rent a bungalow. Himself and I were both used to living alone, so the original arrangement was that he would live on White Heather, staying half the week with me. But that plan never came to fruition. I remember feeling desperately in need of some space and hissing down the phone to a friend, ‘he’s still here. He doesn’t seem to want to go.’
And he never did.
Our life together got off to a rocky start when Himself decided, after a week of living together, to give up smoking. Being a strong minded fellow, he was stoic about the horrendous withdrawal symptoms, merely becoming bad tempered and, at one point, throwing a jar of marmalade at the wall.
It took a bad bout of bronchitis to make me give up cigarettes, and, not having realised how addictive nicotine is, I spent days either sobbing into Himself’s jumper, or howling with rage. I finally won the battle and haven’t smoked since.
Next for a makeover was White Heather, and for the next four years, Himself spent every spare moment refurbishing his precious boat. I was all for it initially, but soon grew to resent the time he spent with his Other Woman. My help proved more of a hindrance, so I went for long solitary walks, desperately missing my friends and wondering what the hell I’d done. Life improved when I finally got a permanent job and made friends locally, but those early days were far from easy.
Eight years ago, on Easter Saturday, Himself insisted we visit White Heather. We climbed inside the bare shell of the boat, and there he went down on one knee and proposed. Weeping happily, I accepted, we told our respective families, then ran away and tied the knot in Gibraltar.
Himself found living on land very difficult, but he has acclimatised and now, from our front window we can see Falmouth harbour, the village of Flushing opposite, the Fal Estuary and out to sea. He can survey the movement of every vessel in and out of Falmouth docks, tell me which cruise liners are in and which boat has broken its moorings. A sort of unpaid harbour master.
It’s eleven years from when we met and life hasn’t been plain sailing. With great sadness we sold White Heather; she was a young person’s boat and I found her very heavy to sail. Boats have always been Himself’s life, so his grieving process was acute and protracted, not helped by problems with his business. However, finally the business was sold and life started to improve. I packed in a stressful job to become self employed, and life was further enhanced by the arrival of a Jack Russell puppy, with whom Himself fell instantly and deeply in love.
But two years ago, Himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer, then pulmonary fibrosis, and the next six months were agonising while he battled with strong drugs and I wondered if I would lose him. Happily both conditions are now under control and Himself’s health is much improved. Courtesy of walking the dog he is two stone lighter, has more energy and a sense of purpose, and we are all much happier, except the cat, who swears a lot.
Himself and I are essentially very different. He likes his meat while I am a vegetarian. I love singing, ballet and musicals whereas his passion is jazz. He would rather stay at home whereas I love going out with friends. He has a slow metabolism and I am hyperactive. In fact, we don’t have anything in common other than a sense of humour and like minded intelligence. How we manage to live together without killing each other is a mystery.
But despite our differences, we have a bond that grows stronger every year. Recently I was asked when I first fell in love with Himself and the image is clear. It was that first morning when he made me tea and toast, crouched over the gas ring wearing his favourite cream jumper. A lump caught in my throat, filling me up with choking, soaring love. I knew this was It. But I would never have told him that. He would have run a mile.
When I look back I’m glad I never listened to the well meaning people who said it wouldn’t work, that I shouldn’t get involved with someone so much older. Whatever happens, I will always be grateful that I took the risk. No one knows what will happen next, so I am all for enjoying life while you can. Sometimes you have to listen to your heart, take a chance in life and run with it.

20 comments:

debio said...

Lovely, flowerpot, simply lovely.

I now know exactly where you are and can even smell the sea (different from here).

Sometimes it pays to take life's risks....and even if it doesn't, well, what the Hell!

Aoj & The Lurchers said...

Oh that's lovely! I wish I had such a romantic tale to tell but I don't. We're just an ordinary couple who met in the pub and, having hit the highs, are now experiencing the lows. I ran with my heart and now my head is wondering whaton earth my heart was thinking. Hey ho. I'm sure we'll get there!

Flowerpot said...

debio- well exactly! Even if it all goes to pot, at least we will have had some happiness. That's my theory anyway!

AOJ - I'm so sorry you've hit the lows. I do hope you hit the highs again soon - I've had enough of the lows wondering what the hell am I doing. It's not all as romantic as it sounds!

Lane said...

That is just such a beautiful post. Thank you flowerpot.
x

BreadBox said...

FP: that is simply beautiful. A love story in a few paragraphs. Thank you *so* much for sharing it!

N.

Flowerpot said...

lane - thank you. A bit romanticised perhaps. Life isnt all a bed of roses!

breadbox - thank you indeed. I'm very chuffed that you all enjoyed it.

Dee said...

What a beautiful post flowerpot. Thank you so much for sharing this. It is kinda like I had imagined your story to be (minus the illnesses - thank God he's better now)!
I'm also one for taking chances and living life right now! (my mum died age 58, it teaches you that, if nothing else)

Flowerpot said...

Dee - I'm so sorry ot hear about your mother. Sounds like you have me sussed!

Akelamalu said...

What a LOVE STORY! I was almost crying reading it's so beautiful. The opening of his first letter "Dear Curls" had me hooked I just had to find out what happened next!

You are so meant to be together that is patently obvious. x

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That was a beautiful blog. My answer to age differences - bugger 'em. We have a similar situation as my husband (the farmer) is 20 years older than. He is 58 tomorrow, blog to follow!! He too has another woman called John Deere, and let us not forget his precious ewes that steal his services constantly! Really enjoyed learning more about you, Flowerpot. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Crystal xx

Flowerpot said...

Ak - I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! Certainly our courting days were romantic (and drunken!) - nowadays we're just boring old marrieds!

Crystal - glad to meet another Age Gap wife!!! (doesn't that sound terrible, apologies.) look forward to reading about your husband's birthday tomorrow - happy birthday to him.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I fell in love with him when he said he had a hot water bottle that shared the same name as Himself. What a fantastic story. I'm a sucker for love stories.
BTW, what is a Cornish piskie?

Miss Understood said...

I've got tears in my eyes. That was beautiful, FP. x

Sweet Irene said...

That's great Flowerpot. Being happily married myself, it is very good to see other people succeed as well. It is nice when true love lasts.

Good for you for having made a go of it and for being successful and for not listening to all those well meaning people. You listened to your heart and it was right.

Flowerpot said...

wakeup - yes, I liked the hot water bottle bit as well. A Cornish piskie is a sprite - bit like a cross between a fairy and an elf. Mischievous little thing.

Flowerpot said...

MissU - glad you enjoyed it.

Sweet irene - I'm so glad you are happy too. Nothing worse than being with the wrong person but makes all the difference if you can be with the right one.

Em said...

That's a lovely story FP, thank-you for sharing it with us. So glad Himself's illnesses are under control, I hope they stay that way (and that your plumbing gets sorted out too)

hugs
Em

Akelamalu said...

Aaah but what memories! :)

The Rotten Correspondent said...

You've made me tear up, flowerpot. That was absolutely lovely. Thank you.

Flowerpot said...

Em - thanks for that. I hope you arent suffering too much from SAD in this dark time of year.

Ak - glad you have good ones!

Correspondent - glad you enjoyed it!