MIND THE (GENERATION) GAP!
HRH The Prince of Wails once memorably whinged to one of his more sympathetic correspondents: “How awful incompatability is, and how dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this (his and Diana’s) extraordinary drama. It has all the elements of a Greek Tragedy.” I’m with HRH on this, although my own creepy idyll owed more to Feydeau than Euripides!
ET* was a conglomeration of bizarre fetishes. Like some loony lapidarist, however, I persisted in viewing him as the original diamond in the rough. Disillusionment was gradual due to my being well wadded with stupidity.
My beloved had a phobia about infection. Coupled with this was his slavish addiction to any and every reality TV medical ‘documentary’. I found the diet of 24 Hours in A&E somewhat indigestible (not to say downright morbid). When challenged, ET solemnly intoned that he watched said programmes “for research, so that he would know what he would do if he developed a particular condition”. Baden Powell would have been proud of him. Never was anyone so well prepared for any and every medical contingency! You will have heard of “Preppers” – bonkers Americans obsessed with Doomsday, who spend their time getting anticipating Armageddon, Apocalypse and any number of nutty nuclear scenarios. Now translate that to…. Lancashire (not exactly a Superpower of the Western World) where my inamorata waged his own peculiar brand of biological warfare. Woe betide me if I inadvertently discarded balled up tissues; the rafters would then echo to ET’s eldritch screech of “Snot! Snot!” I would dearly love to have known the trigger episode (or whatever other trendy term trick cyclists use when discussing childhood trauma) for ET’s fixation on germs. Short of holding a séance to contact his parents, the origin of his obsession is likely to be forever shrouded in mystery (possibly no bad thing!).
In conjunction with his aetiological avocations, ET regarded “dirty books” (not the smutty kind, despite his protracting the vowels to infinity) – especially those from public libraries – as a diabolic phenomenon: they were vessels of infection and regarded darkly by him with intense suspicion. When (condescendingly) I took his literary education in hand and started him off on some classics for bed-time reading, I had to ensure they were brand new and virtually unmolested by human paw. In any event, it was all futile. We started with Wuthering Heights. Yes, I was hoping for a little touch of Heathcliff in the night (with apologies to Henry V). With hindsight, this was not one of my brighter ideas given that Mr H at one point decides to dig up his beloved’s body – necrophilia would definitely be filed under “Pervy” in ET’s diagnostic evaluation of ‘arty types’. Anyway, with the inflexibly unimaginative doggedness that I came to realise was ET’s stock-in-trade – misinterpreted by me in the first flush of infatuation as adorable earnestness – he started with the Introduction to the Penguin edition (you know, the bit in roman numerals). By the time he got to page one of the actual text, he declared that he had forgotten the Introduction and would have to start again. Clearly we were not going to be wallowing in Byronic bliss any time soon. Indeed, at that rate, I calculated it would probably be some ten years before we made it past Chapter One. Mentally I read the last rites for my gothic hero and tried hard to look enthralled as ET regaled me with extracts from Camping and Caravanning and other scintillating publications.
Politically, ET was a born again Pinko. Looking back, I am by no means certain that hooking up with (sorry, falling deeply in love with) yours truly wasn’t some sort of subliminal guerrilla class warfare. I did my best to be a ragged-trousered-philanthropist but, being a solidly home counties sort of girl, I guess my heart wasn’t in it. I was no sans-culottes: more Joan Hunter Dunn than Mother Courage, if you get my drift.
Oddly enough, side by side with his antipathy for the tweedy classes, ET simply adored the accessories so beloved of our labrador-and-wellies brigade. He would roam around clothing stands at farming shows pressing his face into racks of waxed hacking jackets and inhaling the scent of Barbour. Couldn’t get enough of it actually. Made me feel a bit queasy. As though my consort was a sort of countryside Crippen. Or should that be Crocodile Dundee? He had an enthusiasm, amounting to mania, for stetson rancher hats of the sort sported by Paul Hogan and Clint Eastwood (no coincidence, surely, that I had to sit through The Outlaw Josey Wales at least twenty times) and went so far as to order two from New Zealand amidst much anxious discussion of cowboy hat features – 3.5 or 4 inch brim, oval or flat crown? Personally, I couldn’t imagine there would be that much call for gunslinger style showdowns in Halifax, but gamely played along. Howdy pardner!
After we had left behind the satin-and-white-nights of the First Christmas for the fustian of Ordinary Life, I invariably received items of all-weather clothing as presents. Cue my gosh-I-can’t-wait-to-get-all-muddy expressions of rapture. I should have won a BAFTA.
To come full circle, I think HRH would have sympathized!
* ET = My elderly inamorata or Elderly Termagant