Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Carnival of Regret

Kate has started a little 'carnival'. A theme each week that a few of us have taken up to fill the Wednesday post. Kate is rather cerebral so they're likely to be quite serious posts I think. Join in if you like . . .this week . . ."Regret".

I think anyone who says they don't have any regrets is lying. Either that or they've learned to live with them, push them back into the recesses of their mind and kid themselves that they no longer exist. I have plenty but I don't dwell on them, they're to be learned from and tossed aside. I do however think they shape who I am and the attitudes I have now. So settle in . .grab a cuppa and hear about one thing that I have harboured as a deep regret!

It was a weird thing. I knew my grandparents were in what my mother had described as a 'loveless' relationship. He was a normal but somber man . . tall, muscled and tattooed. All he wanted was the little woman to have his meals ready in the evening and his slippers and newspaper at the ready when he came home from work. She was a flapper, a party girl, an Auntie Mame. They married when they were in their teens. She had three children. . the first, my mother . . the subsequent two died, one just a matter of weeks after being born, the other after months of jaundice and illness because my Nana was RH negative . . . no simple post natal injection to prevent the mixing of foetal blood and so each subsequent child was born sickly and terminal.

By the time I actually 'knew' my maternal grandparents, they were in their early 60's. She was fun, he was not. They lived together on and off - he next door in a house they'd bought and converted into uni flats and she in Room 24 of Bleak House .. a pub on Sandy Lane, Stretford or what my Nana referred to as "A Private Hotel" which meant their liquor license was strictly for residents of which there were always 10 or 12. Usually oil riggers having a short break from the north sea or the odd businessman visiting Manchester from London. The bar however was often patronised after hours and with nothing more than a soft orange light, by the Manchester constabulary - the Detective Unit who enjoyed her hospitality and clandestine Johnny Walkers or Whitbread pints in the half light.

It's still there although I believe has been converted into a Nursing Home . . .

He rose early and did the breakfasts and made the beds before retiring to his 'flat' next door and she surfaced just in time to do dinners. He'd do happy hour at the bar and she'd linger late into the night and close up, stuffing the takings into her jacket pockets, too inebriated with Uncle Gordon and tonic to count the profits. In fact their whole daily routine could see them barely speak or cross each other's paths.

I stayed with them when I was 21 and lovelorn and heartbroken a girlfriend and I ventured back to Europe to escape our sorrows for 3 months during the uni break. Long before this holiday, I had a dalliance with an English boy . .well he was a man at 21 to my 16 but a holiday romance we had nonetheless. He didn't dare touch me 'in that way' thanks to my father's standover tactics and warnings of mutilation if he deflowered me! We maintained contact over the five years that passed. Both of us had boyfriends and girlfriends in between and both were once again single when I finally landed on my Nana's Bleak House doorstep as a surprise and proceeded to dump my things for the duration.

I rang the boy. He too was surprised, gobsmacked in fact and more excited than I'd expected. I hadn't told anyone I was coming. He was nervous but keen to meet up again and of course we did. It was wonderful. I had weeks of romantic bliss punctuated while he worked by midweek trips into Wales and the Cotswolds, London and Yorkshire. On the weekends we'd drive to the Blue John caves in Lancashire and visit the Peak District or Cheshire Zoo. He took me to discotheques and clubs despite my being under-age. I met his friends and his family. We'd wine and dine in Lake District pubs and try to be home on Sunday evening in time for the Muppet Show! One thing we didn't do was have sex. The time was marked by the smell of Chanel No 5, long kisses, walks and laughter and squishing into the tight spaces of a yellow Triumph Sprite!

Mind you, our lack of nookie was not for lack of trying but he wasn't one to just jump in the sack. That quiet English reserve perhaps or memories of my father's threats of dismemberment. Whatever the reason, he was a complete gentleman. Very polite, no taking liberties with this guy to the extent that I wondered how interested really was he except for his constant 'Are we going to make love yet!' gibberish in the most inappropriate of settings.

So after a wonderful winter a 'dalliance' was arranged. He was to stay in room 21 of the hotel the night before I left. I would wait until the bar was closed. My girlfriend with whom I shared a room was complicit and organised as look-out while I creaked across the red and gold swirly far-too-old-fashioned, carpeted wooden floors and ignored the tacky flock wallpaper, before falling into his arms between the crisp white sheets adorned with pink chenille bed spreads. You're getting an idea of the 'calibre' of this place now aren't you? We were going to do the deed, a last ditched attempt at true love and cementing what had turned into a blissful romance despite the eventual tyranny of distance. All was arranged.

The moment arrived, I slipped into my rather gorgeous Japanese style Miss Selfridges long kimono with little more than shaved legs underneath and was about to make the dash when I heard the crash . .

Muffled voices around the Arga stove in the kitchen below at 2am were becoming more agitated. Crashing, banging, louder shouting and yelling . . .the sound of tea cups hitting the floor . . . a woman and man in the full throes of argument. I wondered down the equally creaky stairwell that looked so enormous when I was a child but was now just a shallow ballustraded few steps and into the kitchen to find a saucepan flying mid air before connecting with my Nana's forehead and knocking her glasses flying across the room and her off-balance.

There had been some discrepancy to put it mildly. I don't know what, and a fusioin of alcohol, tiredness and years of driving each other crazy had erupted in a full-on flinging match. Her lobbing china at him and he in a last ditched resort to clear his escape hurled a pan. He didn't mean to hit her . . .but he did. One look at me and he disappeared sheepishly with a 'we won't mention this ever again' expression. She put on a show of amateur dramatics and spat venom after his every step. I couldn't leave her. She was bruised and cut not badly hurt physically but emotionally distraught. She needed a little attention, tea and sympathy.

We talked. Actually that's the first time and the last that I really talked to my Nana . . about their life, their mistakes, how they couldn't live without each other but couldn't bear to be 'with' each other, her lost children, her sadness at losing my mother to a land far, far away and how they had managed to exist over the past 50 years in this dysfunctional relationship, two horrible peas trapped in their own horrible pod. As she poured out her regrets, all I could think about was someone waiting for this last gesture of love, my last chance to consummate the relationship, my last chance to possibly see or touch this wonderful boy with whom I'd had a six year longing . . . It was 4am when I finally sauntered to bed, too tired, too drained, too everything to even bother waking him at such an hour . . .

So, while I listened to her long litany of regrets, I was feeling a small but oh-so-significant regret of my own . . one I've harboured for all these years.

We never did sleep together . . . We made plans to meet in Canada a couple of years later, we kept in touch for a few months and then I fell for someone else. The real man of my dreams. The one with whom I spent 11 blissful years until his time was cut short. After Ray died, I felt a need to make sure that this one who'd got away was safe and happy. I wrote to his mother. She was frosty but obliging and told me he'd married, was happy and had two lovely little girls who would now be in their late 20's. I found him on Facebook but haven't had the gaul or the courage to contact him. I never shall.

And my Grandparents . . .they sold up and moved and retired to Wales. They lived together in a little welsh semi-detatched until she died of cancer and he left his mortal coil just 2 weeks later . . .my mother was there for both of them. Perhaps they were in love after all.

I often wonder how the course of my parochial little history might have changed had that saucepan not been hurled across the Arga!


Anonymous said...

Baino, I agree here, that everyone has at least one regret. I've had so many but too, have gotten over them. I learn from them and go on to the next step, a bit wiser for it.

Also I get an "ERROR URL TOO BIG" when I click on to 'carnival' :(

And the new blog is up but still under construction :) G'day!

Bimbimbie said...

Tsup*!* sobbing and sniffing into my mug of cha here. Beautifully written, you had me sitting on the edge of my chair. It's sad that hindsight and regret are so tightly wedded to one another.

Baino said...

That's what it's about Subby. Live and learn. URL fixed. And G'night to you too!

Aww don't cry Bimbimbie. I have a feeling these subjects of Kate's are going to be deep and meaningful. There were many good times with both my Grans and the would be lover. Actually my Nana was a blast but never grew up and my Granpa well, bit of a grump but showed me the pleasures of stolen Smoked Salmon from the Oxwich Hotel!

nick said...

As you know, I did a post on regrets myself. I honestly have no serious regrets about anything, I think my life has worked out amazingly well, though I can't speak for whatever's still to come.

A tragic story about your grandparents, one of those strangely ambivalent love-hate relationships where both partners want to split up but they're somehow bound to each other.

I suspect you're idealising what might have happened if the brawl hadn't intervened. It might have been wonderful, but it might just as easily have been a crashing disappointment. But I know, the mind keeps going back to it like an aching tooth....

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Baino. Looks of interest, although I've not delved into Freud all that much. Currently studying Nietzsche!!! I may have a go at this...

Anonymous said...

I'd say contact him. That's what Facebook is for, finding long lost friends (or, the ones who got away). It doesn't mean you are pursuing. It's not a sin ya'kno!

River said...

"two peas trapped in their own horrible pod.." Describes me and my hubby quite well. Yes, there's regrets here, but nothing to be done about it.

Terence McDanger said...

Awww Baino I really enjoyed that.

Jolly good blogging out of you Missus!

Jay said...

Wow, that really is a tale of star-crossed love, isn't it? Clearly it was never meant to be - though I can see how you would have regrets over it.

It's funny - when we're kids we tend to take everything at face value. I always assumed everyone's marriage was as content as Mum and Dad's, but as I grew older I learned some interesting things about my family. My great-grandmother, for instance, also lived apart from my great-grandfather for large parts of their married life. She was clearly quite a gal.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. I know that sounds odd but it reminded me of a similar (though far less dramatic) regret of mine that I should have blogged about....

Ropi said...

Is it like a chainpost then? :S

Ropi said...

I have regrets as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for playing, hon... Next week, I promise to have mine up and posted bright and early, instead of the too-long delay of today.

It's a beautiful story, you know. Just the right mix of heartbreaking and unconsummated love and the realities of long-term relationships. Really touching.

And I can understand not contacting him on Facebook... there are a few whom I've thought about, but so far it feels like my memories and fantasies are more rosy and sweet than the reality would be, and so why taint fantasy with reality? Best to leave some questions unanswered.

And Nick, toss me the url, I'll link to your post, too... doesn't have to be today, I'm not picky that way.

Baino said...

You're remarkably lucky then Nick (or extremely forgetful) to have absolutely no regrets! Yes it was an odd relationship. I remember him 'moving in' for weeks n end as a child while they endured trial separations. I don't ever remember social events where they were 'both' involved yet they had grown so used to each other I guess, they retired for years and lived in the same little house. And you're quite right, the thought of what might have been is probably far more romantic than the reality.

Subby . . Nietzche? Heavy stuff! once had a boyfriend with that surname!

Nah let sleeping dogs lie Gaye. It was too long ago and too much water under the bridge.

Oh really River? That's a shame. I stole that 'saying' from a friend who refers to he and I in the same vein!

Thaks Tezza,took some remembering actually can't be the life of the party all the time!

What's even odder Jay is that my mother was an only child and married happily for almost 50 years and none of her progeny have had broken marriages (my brother's was a little strange for a while). I think my Nana and Grandpa were closer than they realised.

Hello jmlc .. .well sometimes blogging about it is cathartic, other times things are better left unsaid. Sadly I rarely can tell the difference.

Sort of Ropi. Just a few bloggers and a theme for Wednesday. Helps with a little inspiration for 'hump day'! You do? You're very young to harbour regrets but young enough to put many of them right.

Thanks to you Kate. Yep, I think the memory is probably more interesting than the reality. Englishmen aren't known for their prowess in bed and long distance relationships rarely work. Besides, I'd hate to be the one to cause any discomfort between him and his family after all this time. That and he might have false teeth by now. (shallow shit I know)

kj said...

oh baino, do you know how touching and well written this story is? i was tied to every word, and my emotions have spilled over through the force and tenderness of your story telling.

i have read and enjoyed your blog for some time now, but i have to tell you: this is an extraordinary piece. every word, every gesture, every feeling.

i feel very proud of you and am very pleased to be your friend.

(sniff, sob)


steph said...


I echo everything kj has just said there. It's a very, very special post and I'm sure if it was in the Best Blog Post category at the IBA's, it would be a sure fire winner!

I can't get the image out of my head of yer man lying waiting for you between those crisp white sheets. Did you get the cold shoulder from him the next day?

You mentioned before that you're rhesus negative. Snap! Me and my mum both are too though my twin brother is Rh positive. Hearing about your mum's siblings, it makes you realise how lucky our generation were to have the anti-D injection available. Mind you, anti-D is like a swear word in Ireland as a result of the hepatitis C blood contamination scandal. That's a story for another day!

Megan said...

Excellent. Just, well, excellent. It wouldn't take much to turn that into a novel. Well, it would take a lot more words, but you've got the whole precis right there.

Thank you for sharing this story, m'dear.

laughingwolf said...

aww... at least they did love one another, in their own way

Baino said...

Why thank you kj, you know the feeling is mutual.

Haha . . I think not Stephie! And Im not sure the blog awards has much to do with fabulous content (unless you win of course). Sorry cynical moi there. I would like to have a drink with you and GM tho! Yep, RH negative and Anti-D saved us all. . .very sad. It was years before she knew why her babies died.

Megan, there are far far better storytellers than I out there . .the Blog is my novel.

You know Wuffa, I think they did in a strange kind of way.

Ces said...

Wow! (speechless...)

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