Before we got married Giles would, every so often, disappear off to have lunch with a friend, huffing and puffing as he bundled out of the house, always in a fluster, worried he was late, barking on about how he didn’t want to go and god why did he agree to have lunch with anyone when he’s so busy… the last thing he would say to me, as he returned for the fourth time for some forgotten item, was that he’d be home at 3.30pm and we’ll have beans on toast tonight and watch an episode of whatever boxset we had on the go.
And then, without fail, he would go on a massive bender and not come home until 4am, calling at various points in the evening to say that he was just about to get in a cab, and then turning round and going back to the bar for another two hours before ringing again. “No really I am this time… I got distracted by that bloke, you know, that one with the face… I couldn’t find a cab… I’m coming.. on my way… [muffled] one gimlet please, Geoff…”
I used to get incredibly pissed off about it. It made me feel like such an idiot. And also, when he rang at midnight to say he was getting in a cab and then still wasn’t home by 2am, I would worry. Wouldn’t you? My husband never tells lies usually – there was no reason why I wouldn’t assume he was telling me the truth about the cab. I didn’t have a problem with him going out all night – who cares? – but why not be honest about it and I’ll make plans, too? Once or twice I’d even made him a nice dinner and had it waiting when I’d get phonecall no.1 of the evening from him, declaring that he was just getting in a cab and the dinner would sit there sadly until morning.
It took me a long time to get my head round how my husband really didn’t think he was going to go on a bender, even though it would have been obvious to undiscovered pygmy tribes that that’s where he was headed. I didn’t understand how he could genuinely actually feel like he didn’t want to go out and yet then, after merely spying a corkscrew tucked into a waiter’s apron, find himself weaving his way home at dawn, usually having lost his shoes but with his pockets stuffed full of £50 notes, which he’d won on Blackjack, somewhere – he could never remember where.
In the morning, he would tear at his hair and tremble and shriek about what an awful time he’d had, how terrible he was feeling and how he was never, ever going to leave the house again. Wretched confessions rolled out; he’d passed out on the stairs, in a ditch, in a doorway, he woke up and someone was taking his photo with a bloody iPhone, he spoke for hours passionately to that awful bloke with the face.
He was reformed, changed. It was over between him and late nights. And then it would happen all over again.
After a good year of this sort of nonsense, I realised that the thing to do when Giles had finished his work for the week and was off out for lunch of a Friday, was to ignore his protestations that he’d be home at 3pm, make up the spare room, dig out some takeaway menus, pick a film to watch and settle in for a nice night in on my own. Once I went out with friends without telling him, got reasonably drunk myself, came back in the small hours and was STILL in bed before he stumbled in.
He’s much better about all this since we had Kitty. But the thing is, unless my husband goes on out a bender every so often, he goes a bit mad.
He will claim, over and over again, that all he wants to do is bath Kitty, make dinner, watch something on the telly and go to bed and read his book. But after a straight 6 weeks of this, he starts to lose it and fray round the edges. If he was a parrot, he would start pecking out his feathers. He becomes catty, stroppy and unmanageable. He mopes about the house like a depressed King Kong. He starts wailing “Are we just going to go to bed at 9.30pm every night for the rest of our lives??”
At which point, I send him off out of the house and tell him not to come back until morning. Like on Thursday, when he left the house at 12.30pm for lunch and didn’t come back until 3.30am. He’d had strict instructions to sleep in the spare room but he decided that this was not on and so came in and got into bed, waking me up. Then he woke me up further at 5am when he needed to wee, battering the door jamb with unsteady shoulders and stepping heavily on both outward and homeward journey on the really creaky floorboard that we both hop over in the night (when sober).
The next morning he was as contrite and pliable as a feverish child, his eyes trembling with pain as he tried to recall exactly what happened to him between 8pm and 3am. “And I think I’ve lost my black jumper,” he said, sadly. “I’m sorry I’m such a terrible person,” he added, wringing his hands together.
And just like that, he will be good as gold for at least a fortnight. Tee hee.
But when he is not on a bender, or revving up for a bender – and is instead feeling uxorious, he often cooks for us. I am a terribly resentful cook, finding the whole thing an awful drag as I do it all the time, while my husband revels in it, when he has the time to do it, and cooks generously and imaginatively.
Anyway the other night he made us a starter of breaded scallops, which he found in Nigel Slater’s fast food and they were really great
1 clove of garlic, crushed
finely grated zest of one lemon
3 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
75 room temperature butter
1 quantity of scallops – about 3 handfuls small ones?
1 beaten egg
fresh breadcrumbs or medium matzoh meal would work just as well
butter and groundnut oil for frying
1 Mix the garlic, zest and parsley into the butter and season with black pepper
2 Dip the scallops into the beaten egg and then roll them in breadcrumbs
3 Heat some oil and butter in a pan until you have about a cm in the pan. Heat until hot and then fry off the scallops for about 3 mins each side. Set aside
4 Chuck out the oil and butter and then heat your garlic/parsley/butter concoction and spoon over your scallops when midly frazzed and melty – about 30 secs.
Eat and wash down with an Alka Seltzer.