Friday, 29 November 2013



 There comes a letter, every Christmas, it's not to me, it's from a childhood friend of mrs ishmael.  The good thing about it is that it's not one of those grotesque, braying, ink-jetted roundrobin affairs, filled with self-praise and  how wonderfully the children  and increasingly the grandchildren are doing, the horrid little bastards.  I must say we don't get any of those any more, we no longer know such mechanised and conceited authors,  we have done but we don't anymore.  A mental hygiene recommendation would be to swifty clear one's life of such dross, to just mercilessly fuck them off out of it, out into the Land of Arseholery. That's what I do, anyway.

Susan's letter came early this year.  I have read  about thirty of her letters, without ever meeting her or even seeing her photograph.  They all contained just nice, homely news -  school results, weddings, illnesses, how Dave was doing in his job - and they all came from the same, Northern address,  the same house that she and Dave had married into.   Although she was mrs ishmael's  childhood friend her annual letter was a comfort to me, stabilising and reassuring;  never thought of her through the rest of the year but the little note chronicling her uncomplicated life was a seasonal treasure.

This letter came early, providently including her change-of-address postcard in advance of mrs ishmael sending her yearly update.  And the change-of-address postcard came enfolded in  an explanatory  sheet of paper.  She had moved South, to live adjacent to one of her children;  after forty-three years of marriage, Dave had left her.

I guess it happens all the time, every time you turn around there's another hardluck story;  people's ability to damage one another is, as we know, limitless.  I can understand this desertion in ten-, twenty-, twenty-five year marriages but after forty-three years of blameless, conformist living,  you have to think it must be something dramatic  which wrought this change and although one's sympathy is spontaneously with Susan one wonders what it was, what was wrong  about those forty-three years that he could just walk away from them. We'll never know what feuding dualities co-existed,  what irritations went unvented, what individuality lay smothered under a myriad such Christmas billets doux;  maybe it was by the writings to others of steady domestic progress towards the grave that Susan camouflaged  the chasm beneath her plodding feet.    

I hope that their remaining time proves to be - from whatever over-niced  existence they shared - a liberation,  despite their wrecking my Christmas, selfish bastards.             


DtP said...

My mum’s only recently got in touch with one of her bridesmaid’s from 40+ years back who’s still with the same bloke and their marriage sounds truly awful. Both had decentish careers and yet somehow are still paying a mortgage and having to work at 68 or so and their kids are geographically estranged and it’s totally loveless to the point where I wouldn’t be too shocked to read about it on page 3 of the local comic ‘Mr X was found in the bath with multiple stab wounds and a pineapple forced into his colon’ and yet they stay together, they stay together. I really can’t speculate as to why, they don’t go out – there are no appearances to keep up, they don’t seem to have any chums, it’s not for the kids – they’re in their 30’s – the house is worth about £300k which adequately buys a couple of 2 bedroom plots most anywhere in the country but….

I guess it’s habit to some degree – maybe one of them thought ‘you know what, over our 43 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that I truly despise everything you are, and in the time I have left I’d much prefer it without you’ which takes a bit of courage, I guess.

I, personally, would have assumed that marriage would just peter out but that civility would remain – I’d probably wander off to my shed or wander round opera houses and libraries, golf courses, if possible, but most likely snooker halls and hopefully have a few chums left while she did whatever it is they do but who’s to say. We never know a thing I guess. I’ve not been married so I’ve never experienced the pure contemptible malice that can grow, unchecked, until that 1 moment where the epiphany kicks in and the mind tells the body – enough of this. I’ve done it in jobs a few times – calmly explained in about 4 words that, frankly, I’ve got better things to be doing and thanks for the memories and I can only imagine it’s a hundred times worse in a marriage – so much time wasted, so much baggage, futility really – wtf was that all about?

But after, relief maybe – if she’s near her kids and her grandkids and if she’s anything like my mum who’s kind of lost the competitive edge with her grand-daughters, well – it’s probably totally cool. Plus, the parents have now got an awesome child minder on tap (and talking with work colleagues it seems that child care is a massive issue and ridiculously pricey). So I wouldn’t let it wreck your Christmas – it sounds like it should have happened 10 year back.

My ‘father’ – never met the chump – had an affair with his 19 year old secretary whilst she was preggers with me and so mum issued a Catholic fair accompli when I was 9 weeks old and off he went, never to be seen again except at the disputed maintenance court appearances even though the lad was minted (power, ya know, what an err ..aphrodisiac!) Subsequently, she’s been single ever since and has always been jealous of what seemed like her mates who had it all – perfectly reasonable I guess and so now there’s the opposite of schadenfreude knocking about – that what seemed like the idealised version of a life course well travelled was but a masquerade of denial and deviant compromise, contempt and cruelty. ‘Happy anniversary darling!’

I dunno – may be she can get a dog?

call me ishmael said...

Probably not what you intended, mr dtp, but that's beautiful, just beautiful.

DtP said...

Cheers dude. But why would ya? If it's fucked - no matter how much effort you put into it - it's fucked.

I moved back in with my mum from about 25 - 30 when she fostered kids and it was quite surprising how sharp my 'that's quite funny' reflex was related to 'that's totally out of order' twitch was. British people have a problem with sarcasm and my mum and I are specialists but no matter how bad things get, there's no need to be disrespectful. If you're gonna call someone an idiot - make the case for it. Anywho - foster kids said some truly horrific things to my mum with threats of violence and she was getting paid and I was with her stoned out of my tits and yet still - there are things up with which that simply shall not occur.

Some couples live in a state of permanent hatred - domestic violence is one thing but public violence is quite another and the way some couples talk to each other displays vitriol as cups of tea is the norm. Why would anyone put up with it?

call me ishmael said...

I don't know if people do put up with it; they certainly don't have to. In some cases, it is only the observer who is putting up with it, as we put up with monstermums thrashing their kids in TESCO. At some point, back in the day, I knew a battered wife wno defined, valaued herself by her batteredness, her bruises were badges of triumph; we got her out of one batterlove, she took up with a formerly non-battering bloke and turned him into one, knew how to bring out the worst in people, she did. I was, still am, staggered by the number of women who returned to abusive men and would thus not be surprised, if the need for abuse formed the basis, too, of male loyalty to incomprehensibly hostile women.

As to why would you, persevere, that is, well, because you said you would, promised to, in front of witnesses, including Himself, that's why.

Trouble is, people don't understand a public promise, they think it's just words; I did, first time out, tro the disappointment of all concerned.

Anonymous said...

How very sad.

Mr dtp speaks of relief, but in those quiet moments, and of those there will be many in an empty house, relief will turn to regret.

Regret over harsh words which tumble from the lips so readily but cannot, no matter the effort expended, be pushed back in.

Regret over missed opportunities, times when one should have apologised and didn't, times when one should not have apologised and did. Selfishness, mostly. The vile tendency of people to 'do unto others, before they do it to you'.

So much we could have done, and yet left undone, and vice versa.

I have been married a very long time now. A few years have been smooth, enjoyable even. Most have been tainted with struggles; money, jobs, houses, kids, dying parents, dying friends. Some have been terrible and two were positively vile.

But I know, and so does she, that 'until death do us part' was not a glib maxim muttered as a formality, that divorce is no option, that abandonment of all previous promises, vows even, is out of the question. In what other circumstance of life is one expected to vow, nowadays? And if the vow is the pinnacle of the guarantee of a verbal contract, why do people break them more easily than a written contract with an electricity supplier, and with less penalty?

I had no idea what I was getting into when I married. If I had, I probably would not have. But marry I did, and I steadfastly refuse to be that part of Ruin that dispenses with it's spouse when the fiery flame of passion, aroused by velvet thighs and crystal clear-blue eyes, is nothing more than dying embers, those thighs now flabby, those eyes more red than blue. I will not desert the one I vowed to desert ALL others for, even though we argue, even when she's wrong, when she hates me and me her, when the 'sensible' thing to do is leave, safe in the knowledge there will be endless others to console you and assure you of your decision, almost always those that have made the very same decision, those who would assuage their own consciences whilst pretending to assuage yours.

I will not swerve my responsibilies, my duty, my solemn vows, because I 'feel' differently now than on my wedding night, as if decades should not have changed us, as if feelings are to be respected more than facts, more than faith.

That is the problem, imho, Mr Ishmael, both with the oldies that would close the door on a lifelong friend, a true partner, and the young ones, who will swop spouses as regularly as mobile phones - feelings. Poxy, mutable, untrustworthy feelings. Feelings change, very regularly, and those that are led about by them are little better than donkeys, needing bit and bridle to induce such feelings as cannot be ignored, painful, wretched feelings.

But by then it is too late. And all you are left with is your own broken vows, some faded photos and nagging feeling that a wrong turn has been taken, something terrible has been done, and it cannot be undone.


call me ishmael said...

Thank you, mr vincent, thank you very much. I am sure that, when sleep comes, I will sleep on your words, poignant and profound.

Maestro Thompson has a song ".....write it all down in a tear-stained letter."

I often think that these small commentaries are littered with such and all the better for it.

Joined together in holy deadlock, thirty years ago a sub editor on a Probation Bulletin so titled a contribution of mine, it always stayed with me, a;ways rang true, I always tried to avoid its cold clasp.

Anonymous said...

Sleep is hurtling to us both, Mr Ishmael. I am amazed (with a z) I have lasted this long. Perhaps the Almighty has preserved us for something special?

Please don't think me judgemental for your circumstances Mr Ishmael, I know, I really do, how you feel, why you did what you did, why it is more by luck than judgement that I did not do what I have wanted to do for a very long time.

Perhaps I am just weaker, didn't dare do?

In my heart, the only place we really know ourselves if we really want to be true, I am an adulterer, I am vile, I am black.

Just because I maintain my vows makes me not one bit better than you.


call me ishmael said...

Isn't everybody, in their heart and or mind, an occasional adulterer, isn't it just a function of the imagination?

There was a survey in the US some years ago which found that an amazing number of men fantasised about looking through the crosshairs of a sniperscope at the head of some dignitary. That action had been fetishised by the Kennedy reaiity and by the entertainment industry, impossible, I think for anyone who saw, for instance, the Day of the Jackal, not to re-run those scenes in their minds, with them as the assassin, doesn't make them assassins.

There are smarter people than I, here, who would refute the idea that we can or should proscribe and restrict our imaginations vis a vis sex, or anything else. If a writer imagines and writes a sex scene does that make him a sinner even if his artistic purpose was towards purity, abstinence, celibacy?

I do not dispute that the impact of physical adultery is grave and ought to be recognised as shameful and squalid but a youthful failure to understand these things does not damn me forever in my own mind. I just didn't know any better. I wish I had known better but I didn't.

As for sleep's hurtling towards us, that is the case chronologically only; I will disarm and cripple Death's sergeants with all my might and guile and wisdom, all my manic energy, all my invention. I, too, have good reason to be amazed at my survival thus far and therefore I will not go gentle into that good night. And nor should you.

DtP said...

Chuck in a tune

Sentimenalism's a mental disorder!

call me ishmael said...

Maybe, but sentiment isn't.

call me ishmael said...

The link didn't work, anyway, mr dtp

DtP said...

Probably a good thing. Body rox yeah yeah ft Liciana. Meh, dance music! I'll blame booze. Sort of the end of garage music this song - extremely depressing in its way because the production values are so dirty.

Not much since musically has happened for 20 years so any scrap will do. Am doing Dr John on a Saturday aft ffs - got anything modern? Hmm..

lilith said...

I don't know why you haven't been scooped up, Mr Prick, by some lovely. If I weren't so happily wed I'd be stalking you big time, cougar style.

Anonymous said...

Mr Ishmael,

I hope you don't think that I was being rude, or self-righteous, I did not intend to offend you, if I did.

I have much to be ashamed of in my youth, and in later life. I was not damning you for adultery, I was trying, badly, to describe the stupidity of men with their maidens.


call me ishmael said...

No offence taken, mr vincent, not a scintilla.

call me ishmael said...

A litte Dr John goes a long way, mr dtp, the best. most rioutous performance is Such a Night on the Band's Last Waltz rockumentary, his louceh growling of If I don't do it, somebody else will, is pure New Orleans, les bontemps roulet.

You should try some early music, Pallestrina, Byrd, Monteverdi, feel God bow the strings of your heart.

Anonymous said...



DtP said...

Cheers Lils. That's funny.

They do a thing on Rd3 called the 'early music show' and I thought it was for kids but it's 13th century early stuff - can see why they built cathedrals.

Boys can destroy cathedrals

(Misrere Mei Deus)

Religion doesn't come into it - bonds are as covenant of a man's own design.

The criminologist calls it 'repeat victimisation' where the insurance company pays out within 3 weeks and the house gets burgled again. Domestic violence takes 37 incidents until someone picks up the ferkin' phone? Spidey Sense - that's what these spivs are selling - a world without intuition - cheeky cunts. All crime writers know the murder, yer know, has to be done - hits, crime, vendettas - ffs - still takes 30 minutes to get in and out.

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