Wednesday, 6 February 2008


People who know us well enough to care ask, after a suitable gap, “And how is it going between you?” or, in Dad’s words, “Are you still pals?” As though one of the greatest challenges must be for two people to get on well in such close company.

Our reply is invariably breezy. “Fine!” we smile, thinking of the majority of the time filled with laughter or engrossed conversation. Totally forgetting the frequent explosions of frustration between us, that flare quickly and die, or just occasionally explode internally and smoulder awhile.

I resent having to stop and start always at the rhythm of his photographic urges; he hates that I carry on walking when he’s taking a picture, making him rush and mess it up. I get narked that he talks always so positively, crowding out my own thoughts, especially when I’m going uphill and have no breath to reply; he despairs of my constant negativity and silence.

Visiting the Eglise Abbatiale de Saint Etienne in Caen, I had grown bored of viewing Gothic stones. I like to read the history of places; and finding a morsel of print I thought would interest David too, began to read it out. He cut across my words with, “It’s rare to get so close up to medieval misericords.” An outright tangent, I felt, and stomped off.

By the time David discovered me hiding behind a pillar deep in the nave, I’d risen above the temptation to swear wildly at him. A plain statement of facts and feelings would be more powerful. But when I claimed “It makes me feel despised to be cut off, able to speak only when given permission,” I was astounded to hear the counter-argument: “But you were interrupting me in what I was doing, that’s what I said. It was a rare opportunity for me.” In the spirit of facts, I had to concede he might be right.

“Well, the polite approach would be to say, “Do you mind saving that for a while till I finish off here?” I couldn't resist concluding.

We spoke in determinedly level tones, reining ourselves in – realising that a year would be a long, long time if spent in anger and hurt. So we skipped straight to an agreement that there had been a lack of communication between us. Assumptions in place of a full explanation of meaning. For the time being we should take the trouble to state clearly our grievances. In the same level tones, of course.

Still, a useful outcome has been that the single word “misericord” is henceforth available to stand in for “butt out, I need space for my own interests just now, thank you!”

1 February 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's dangerous to tell David he is right, even if he is.