FUN AND LAUGHTER ON OUR SUMMER HOLIDAY

When I met my husband we seemed to be each other in drag, we were so similar. Over the years our differences have become more obvious. We still share a similar sense of humour – except when he does an ironic feminist joke which falls flat and makes me shout. We like to do the same things – hang out reading and swimming in the sunshine. Call that wallowing – not swimming. He reads non-fiction and I read fiction. I have to admit I can’t completely trust someone who never reads fiction. Or worse, someone who thinks fiction is not as good as non-fiction.
Movies – he likes car chases and shouty films. He’ll watch fantasy, psychological thrillers, spy movies. We overlap on the thrillers and spy movies but mostly I love foreign language films. Mike Leigh, Woody Allen and decent comedies. He’ll join me in the Scandinavian but not the French, Italian or German. Funny. He did mention when we met that he loved German films. That avenue of pleasure has since been confiscated.
We agree on how to raise our children. Disagree on what makes food healthy. And holidays. We agree that we should go on the same holiday. But that’s where it ends.
I want to visit Italy and several of the Greek Islands. Santorini for its beauty. Hydra for its creative history and Thassos – that’s where we honeymooned. I would also love to visit Paris (painfully – I’ve never been. Done France but mostly ended up with men who hated cities, which included Paris). Every fibre of my being wants to spend time in the UK. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and my beloved England. Most of all I want to wander round London, using the tube at will. I’ve loved the tube since I was small and we travelled across to the south via public transport on family holidays. It’s a miracle of travel – you move along a coloured line – say green for the District Line, or yellow for Circle Line – and pop up somewhere different. Magic. Public transport in Australia is not magic. It’s slow and horrible. The country is too big to run ‘away days’.
Husband is quite interested in the Greek bits – knows how much I want to see Italy but that’s it. He wants to travel round Australia in a campervan; even the red bits in the middle where you could be on Mars or another hot, fiery planet out there in the solar system. If I’m going to travel in a campervan round Australia I want to hug the bits on the outside. The bits where a perfectly clean ocean can lap at my sandy toes. I do not want to spend days and days traversing across a desert. With people tagging along as it’s too dangerous to do alone. Car breakdown, flat tyres, getting bogged. I will be at my worst in the heat and the sand and I don’t want other people to witness how vile I can be.
These holidays are a long way off yet. Growing boys to feed, send on lovely trips to Paris (I will soon be the only person in this house who hasn’t visited the City of Lights), skiing trips, rugby trips etc. We both had new (to us) cars this year. One day these trips will happen. I’m thinking about shaking off the husband in Venice and hitchhiking to London. Trouble is he’s my proof reader and he’ll know of my dastardly plan by now.

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NANCY’S CIRCLE

I’m meeting Eva, my granddaughter, at a café in town. A Moroccan couple run it, they sell dishes of chickpeas with couscous. I love the spicy smell. When I was young we distrusted foreign food. As if they were trying to poison us! Charlie wouldn’t eat pizza, “I’m not eating anything made by the Italians. I haven’t forgotten the war.” I served it once and he folded his arms, lips set in a line. The old sod, strictly meat and two veg, he didn’t serve in the war. Flat feet. Did I have breakfast? I can’t remember.
I walk into town, gets my old legs working. Past lines of terraced houses like brick coloured icing piped along each side of the road. Back gardens concreted over, the flowers in pots, high wooden fences. When Charlie and I moved in everyone had wire fencing you could see through. We grew vegetables, put out water butts to catch the rain, hung over those fences on warm evenings, swapping gossip and comparing ailments. People don’t talk of illness now. The fear of death. It’s just a circle, starts at the beginning and ends at the end. Today people want to live forever, with botox and vitamin pills. Not me.
When it comes to sex my Eva can use those rubber things, whereas I fell pregnant. Disastrously, but deliciously, pregnant. I refused to tell anyone who the father was. The baby was mine. I would call her Beth. I shuddered at suggestions of knitting needles and ‘aunts’ who would know what to do. And the convent? Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. I wander what Our Lady would have thought of what went on there. Not a sacred heart between them. I didn’t want my baby wrenched from me and given to ‘deserving’ parents. Who said I didn’t deserve her? God? The Virgin Mary? Or those bloody nuns. It made Charlie seem a good idea.
My feet throb as I reach the café and my cheeks are aflame. I find a seat near the window, I don’t want Eva to miss me. I ask for a glass of water and wait for my girl, listening to Moroccan folk music. The café is decorated in deep shades of red and violet and I can smell lemons. Charlie and I grew them. Strange that a man so cruel would love to nurture, green shoots and small children. So wonderful with Beth but he never forgave me for not giving him a child.
“Bitch! You think you’re so beautiful! See how you look after this.” His arms raised, the jolting blows. Black- eyes and bruises. I cut my hair and wore shapeless clothes. It didn’t keep him away. That’s what you get when your brothers pay someone to marry you. But I got to keep Beth and Charlie got a wife and servant. A fair exchange? The old bastard’s dead now.
Eva comes bursting through the door wearing a floaty orange dress. All aglow with bangles tinkling.
“Sorry, Gran.”
I stand to let her kiss me. “Don’t worry, dear. Would you order me one of those fancy coffee’s I can’t pronounce?”
Eva smiles and my heart warms. Only my girl would wear orange more than halfway through her pregnancy.
“You mean a macchiato, Gran?” She giggles. “Nancy’s been kicking all morning. Must have been the curry I had last night.”
“Eva, you can’t call her Nancy. It’s so old fashioned and ugly.” Secretly I am pleased, another circle. But Eva’s Nancy will be loved.

I wait for my coffee, listening to the music. If my life were a song I know what the title be – ‘Nancy’s Circle’. Something with a strong melody.