My husband arrives home from London with a rockabilly quiff and an appointment for a new tattoo. This tattoo will be bigger and better than all the rest; the design seems to be almost incidental, size is what matters here. Since he (not so) recently turned forty I can’t help feeling we are staring a mid life crisis full in the face. But, no, he claims it is simply a reaction to the inherent predictability of our lives now we have moved out of London.
On paper I guess it looks great. Three happy(ish) healthy children, a giant dog (that image thing again) and a pretty seventeenth century farmhouse complete with thatched roof and chocolate box, rose strewn exterior. ‘We have found ourselves in middle class hell,’ my husband announces as he teases his quiff into Buddy Holly perfection. Me, I rather like the regular gifts of home made chilli jam and bottled plums, I enjoy the dinner parties, cocktail soirees and elderflower cordial lunches even if they do have a certain inevitability about them. A moment of dread when John asks me about our plans for the weekend. ‘Dinner with X and Y on Friday, dinner with H and J on Saturday and the D-Ps are coming for lunch on Sunday,’ I say. His response is a progressive sequence of four letter words. It’s not that he dislikes our new friends: on the contrary I know he’ll be holding fort later on, with the best part of a bottle of wine inside him; he may even end up breakdancing if he’s really enjoying himself. It’s just that when he wakes up he’ll believe we’ve turned into his parents. And then there’s the chocolate box house which came with a mortgage so hefty that we both regularly wake in the night bolt upright, clutching our hearts, emitting the kind of screams last heard in The Blair Witch Project. Amazing what you’ll pay for climbing roses. And then there’s the dog who seems to have developed full blown depression since moving from our tiny postage stamp of a garden in South London. Perhaps it’s because we decided he now has a big enough garden to walk himself. So he sits outside the front door, staring lugubriously at the green paradise which surrounds him, thinking ‘if only we could move back to Clapham.’ A depressed Mastiff is hard to bear, everything about him, even his sadness, is just too big. And then there’s the children, who (through no fault of their own) have been churning through schools at record speed - I think it was seven at the last count. Sure they love the new West Country pad. Yes, they have made lots of new friends. But, they ask each other at night in the privacy of their bedrooms, with volatile parents like these, how long can it last? Morose dog, confused kids and a husband who makes Ian Curtis look cheerful. ‘This is the dark side of middle age,’ he says, as we crunch off down the drive for the first of the weekend’s dinner parties. I wonder if a quick fix of Prozac might buck him up a bit?