I should finish telling you about going shopping after gardening while still wearing my gardening clothes. My shopping was of the unexciting kind. It involved getting a new gas canister on which the production of hot water in my household is dependent, and putting fuel in my car, on which so many aspects of my life depend. I followed this with a trip to the next town to get another bale (they should come in bales) of incontinence nappies and disposable bedsheets for João. With the €5 coupon I earned for spending so much money before Valentine’s Day, I purchased some nice strong instant coffee, and thus felt the cycle was complete. I love the fact that the store sends the coupon to my smartphone, and all I have to do is show the cashier the relevant message at the till.
Because the wi-fi is so good in the vicinity of the supermarket, I sat in my car and posted photos of my recent gardening efforts to Facebook, still – obviously – in my gardening clothes, although beginning to feel cold, since the legs of my jeans had become wet when I was over-enthusiastic with the hosepipe when spraying the soil off my tools earlier.
My greatest achievement during this whole shopping trip was that I managed to ignore completely all Valentine’s Day advertising simply by blocking out the colour red, except when standing directly in front of the shelf with the coffee on it, since red is the predominant colour of the packaging of my favourite brand.
Despite being cynical about red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and romance on a massive commercial scale, I was not impervious to Cupid’s darts once upon a time. Two years have elapsed since I published this book, by the way.
I was at the practice green at the golf club perfecting my bunker shots when I first laid eyes on my beloved – and she on me, as it happened. It was an amazing moment, even though we were about 100 metres apart.
João asked her sister who I was. “Nobody”, she said. That year, by the way, I was the reigning Ladies Club Champion, but I guess that does not count for much among non-golfers. For my part, meanwhile, I had mistaken João’s slightly older sister for her mother. I still chuckle about that one.
Our third encounter was quite by miracle and ignited a passion still burning some twenty-six years later.
Early on João asked me how I loved her. I said “madly, deeply, immensely”. She said, “always”.
Our crowd code (every couple should have one) is a discreet hand gesture, signifying my favourite acronym: IFLY.*
* IFLY – I fucking love you.
Each couple has shared sayings; those ordinary little words which mean much more than a casual observer could guess. One of ours is, “It’s raining”. Here’s why:
GETTING CAUGHT IN THE RAIN
There is nothing quite as urgent as lunch hour with your lover.
I am talking about the impossibility of finishing a conversation; the impossibility of having to separate, and the impossibly long hours between lunch and reunion in the evening after work.
How wonderfully fortuitous that sudden torrential downpour was, as we rushed through city blocks back to our respective offices at ten minutes to two!
Both of us were utterly soaked to the skin by the time we took cover in the shallow, unused doorway on the side of the Houses of Parliament.
We kissed and kissed and kissed en plein air, and it rained and rained and rained. Just as abruptly, it was two-fifteen, and the rain had stopped. We came to our senses.
When one arrives late at the office that bedraggled, not even a modicum of composure is possible, believe me.
You probably won’t believe me, but the fact that all these stories will end up being blogged on Valentine’s Day is purely coincidental. If I had had my way, I would have finished blogging all the stories in this “potted story of me so far” by now. But I did not have my way, and work and life got in the way. Today is the first truly free day I have had since before Christmas, and what better way to spend it – candlelit dinners aside – than by gardening, shopping and blogging?
The next story, incredibly, also deals with the theme of lurv. I can tell you that lurv does not smell of rose petals. It smells of carbolic soap followed by a mixture of paraffin and wax polish. And as the song says, “lurv hurts”. It hurts your knees and your arm muscles while polishing floors the old-fashioned way. Chronologically, I guess we had been living together for about a year at the time of the following event:
ARRIVAL OF THE BED
João woke me up early one Saturday morning and announced that we had to spring clean our always neat and tidy flat.
I humoured her. We worked like slaves. She would not even let me take a smoke break until everything had been removed from the main bedroom/lounge (I know, weird architecture), and the wooden floor scrubbed, then polished to a high gloss.
I was about to reintroduce the bed to the room, when suddenly a furniture van pulled up.
“Surprise!” said João doing a star jump in the sparkling empty room.
In came a carved, wooden four-poster bed.
Nineteen years later, I assembled it for strangers who bought it, a week before we emigrated to Portugal.
The next story has me thinking back to a life full of activity. In a sense, that has not changed for me. João’s disability because of MS, sadly, has me doing everything. The dynamic of doing things together faded long ago. Memory fades, so I am not quite sure when exactly that was, but I suppose it was before we emigrated over seven years ago. We certainly made the most of life when João was able, and my recently deceased father really was a real sport. To this day, my mother can always be counted on to produce a welcome flask of coffee and something nice to eat on days when moving house and similar occur. We call this her “feed the world campaign”, since it has never been restricted to family.
It took us a while to get our act together, mainly because being in love is very time-consuming.
We had six different places of abode in as many years. We only used a furniture removal company once. All the other times, my parents helped us and my dad’s truck was useful.
My builder father generously provided his skills and those of his workmen for numerous carpentry and fencing projects, and plumbing emergencies.
On the first day of what became 15 years of renting the garage “cottage” belonging to João’s sister and brother-in-law, my dad won the day by fixing the ceiling whose imminent collapse seemed a certainty.
He never charged us anything, mainly because we were mostly broke.
Life goes on. These days, João does not know what day it is unless I tell her, and even then she might forget before the day is out. So for breakfast on Valentine’s day she will get flowers on the table. By breakfast time, I will have decided if scrambled egg on heart-shaped toast, or heart-shaped butter melted into a bowl of oats porridge will be the order of the day. I will do this to cheer her up. But it won’t be romantic; I will be too busy doing the laundry.
If you are curious as to the seven remaining vignettes in the book and cannot wait for the next instalment, you can purchase the real book immediately from Amazon – as a Valentine’s gift, if you like. Click on the picture below:
© 2016 Allison Wright