Monthly Archives: November 2018

My entire body aches. I must have slept awkwardly. I try to move. But I feel (too) heavy. Then I realise why. Mia slept with (or rather, on) me last night. I gently move her off my back. And turn my phone on. Forty missed calls from Anthony. I delete his voicemails (without listening to them).

I scroll through deleting his texts. Then I notice one from Mark (my ex-husband) “thought I should just let you know that I introduced Mia to a girl I’ve been seeing”. This is the first time he has done that. And I am strangely unsettled by it.

I ask Mia if anything interesting happened over the weekend. All she will say is “I met Daddy’s friend. She has blonde hair”. I am desperate to know more. But do not pry any further.

I make discreet enquiries through a mutual friend. She tells me that he is dating his blonde ex-catalogue model of a receptionist.

Model? She is probably very pretty; all button nose and blonde hair. I feel a little deflated. Why does the word ‘model’ have that effect on me? Even with the word ‘catalogue’ in front of it?

Mark always said I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He talked me out of having the nose job I’d been planning for years. I said it was big. He said it was strong. And part of my heritage.

I conceded that there were very few Cypriots with little button noses. He said he didn’t like button noses. Or blondes for that matter. And now he is with a blonde button nosed ex-model.

What if she is there the next time I drop Mia off? That only gives me two weeks to get used to the idea. He called her a ‘girl’. What if she is (a lot) younger than me? I look in the mirror. And I swear I look older than I did yesterday.

I persuade Mia to watch Stardust again. I need a moral reminder of why it is not good to want to remain forever young. Instead I find myself thinking “Is it really such a terrible thing to rip out the heart of a fallen star and devour it for eternal youth?” I turn it off. I am a very bad person.

What on earth is wrong with me? Is this purely my ego? Or do I still have feelings for Mark?

I am saved from further analysis by the doorbell. It’s my parents. My mother walks in clutching a handful of dried olive leaves. She sets them alight. Then she blows the flames out and circles the olive leaves around Mia’s head, wafting the smoke towards her face and muttering “Your eyes to your arses, your eyes to your arses”.

Something is clearly lost in translation because (bizarrely) it sounds normal in Turkish.

Mia stays perfectly still “Mummy, what is nene (grandma) doing?” “I am protecting you from evil eyes” responds my mother (as if it is the most natural thing in the world).

Apparently someone put the evil eye on Mia. And that is how she ended up with the chick pea in her ear. Luckily I taught Mia not to take her crazy ramblings seriously. She giggles as I roll my eyes.

Then I notice my father looking sadly around at my minimalist (Philippe Starck) furniture “You should have told me you didn’t have enough money to buy a proper three piece suite.” He takes out his wallet “How much do you need?“

The doorbell rings again. My mother beats me to the door. It’s Anthony. His arm is in a sling. And he is holding a huge bunch of flowers.

She looks at me suspiciously “Who is he?” He responds before I do “I’m the flower delivery.....man” and thrusts the flowers at her. He turns to leave. She stares after him. Then calls out, “Wait!” I hold my breath. “I can’t believe they are making you work with a broken arm”. He claims it is “only a sprained wrist”. There is probably nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just a cheap ploy to get sympathy.

It works (on my mother), “Oh you poor thing. Where are you from? You look Turkish”. He admits to being Greek Cypriot. She invites him in for some of her Cypriot vegetable and lamb soup. He tries to refuse. But she won’t take no for an answer.

I am tense (to say the least). My father talks to him in Greek. My mother brings him soup. He makes (over the top) appreciative noises as he eats. She asks him (smugly) if his wife’s soup is as good as hers. He says he isn’t married.

Then adds (whilst looking at me) “There is a woman I would love to marry. But her parents wouldn’t approve of me” My mother nods sympathetically “It is because you have a crap job. Why are you still a delivery boy at your age?”

He doesn’t know how to respond to that. She peers intently at him “Hmm...your eyes are a little too close together. Are you a bit slow? Is there something wrong with your brain?” She illustrates this by tapping the side of her head and scrunching up her face.

She isn’t trying to be rude. My mother simply has no tact or a single politically correct bone in her entire body. She takes his lack of response as affirmation; shaking her head as she tuts, “You should forget about marriage”. Then she shrugs “Eh. What can you do?” and offers him more soup.

He looks across at me “Do you think she would want to marry me?” I am so incensed by his nerve that I respond (venomously) without thinking “She wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, let alone marry you!”

All three of them are taken aback by my outburst. My mother breaks the silence “You know this woman?” I try to sound casual “No. But I know his type” He responds (too emphatically) “You have me all wrong, you really do”. I glare angrily at him. I don’t trust myself to speak.

My father looks from me to him. And back again. Then he whips Anthony’s plate away (while he is still eating) “Well, we mustn’t keep you. Off you go”. He is still holding the spoon as my father practically hauls him out of the chair and pushes him out of the door.

Then he suggests I go outside (to the garden) with him to` keep him company’ while he smokes. I think I know what’s coming. And I’m right. He looks me straight in the eye and asks “Is it finished between you and that Greek?” I realised some time ago that it is utterly pointless trying to lie to my father. “Yes” I say “It is”. Then “Please don’t tell mum.”

But it’s too late. She has been hanging out of the window behind us (eavesdropping) “You were with that Greek? Aman AllahIm (oh my god)!”

We go back inside and help her get down from the window. She is hysterical “A Greek ! I will die of the shame! Is that what you want? To kill me?” My father tells her to calm down. She turns on him “This is all your fault. You told me not to interfere. Do you see what happens when I don’t interfere? Now do you agree that we should get involved?” He (reluctantly) nods.

She (immediately) calms down. And adopts a worryingly sweet tone, “Sweetheart, we have let you try it your way. We think you should try it our way now. Let’s face it; you’re not getting any younger are you? And if the best you can do is a Greek retard then you obviously need our help”. They exchange glances. “It is time for us to find you a nice Turkish husband”

Somebody shoot me. Please.

I must remain calm until I am in possession of all the facts.

The first step is to conduct a (basic) lie detector test. I position myself so my head is resting on the left hand side of his chest. Then I gently prod him awake and ask “Who is Maria?” His heart rate immediately (and audibly) increases as he feigns ignorance.

The next step is to make him talk. I pull my body back. And give him one almighty kick whilst bellowing “WHO THE FUCK IS MARIA?” He squeals in pain. I give him another kick. A two- legged (buckaroo style) one this time. He lands head first on the floor. His lower body remains on the bed; legs splayed with his bottom in the air. This (unfortunate) view momentarily brings to mind the haemorrhoid cream I found in his cabinet.

I recover quickly and repeat the question (again). He is still (foolishly) pleading ignorance. I lean forward. Grab his balls. And tell him I am giving him one last chance to tell me the truth. Otherwise I will destroy his chances of fatherhood. Permanently.

That seems to jog his memory. Maria is his girlfriend. I am now in possession of all the facts. And I am incandescent with rage.

He swears he had every intention of ending the relationship. That he doesn’t love her the way he loves me. He just needed confirmation that I wanted to be with him before he finished with her. He waits for my response (whilst nervously protecting his genitals with both hands). I surprise him with “So you’re a monkey now?” The idiot thinks it’s a reference to his hairy body (how unimaginative).

I am actually drawing a parallel between him trying to swing from one relationship to the next and a monkey swinging from one branch to another. He won’t let go of one until he has the other within his grasp. This is perfectly acceptable in a monkey (who is swinging in a tree). But it is both weak and despicable in a man (who isn’t).

He pleads, “Just give me a chance, please. I’ll end it tomorrow. I want to be with you”. I throw his clothes at him and order him to leave. He manages to get one leg in his pants as I’m shoving him out of the door. He is trying to simultaneously hop and walk. I watch (with a high degree of satisfaction) as he takes a tumble down the stairs. Then I slam the door shut. I refuse to cry. He is not worth it. I pop a couple of sleeping pills and go to bed until it is time for Mia to come home.

We are always very happy to see each other after a long weekend apart. She runs in with her arms outstretched. I scoop her up and hold her tight. But I can still feel that horrible knot in my stomach. I can’t believe he has a girlfriend. I feel so stupid.

I distract myself by taking Mia to the park. We finally return home exhausted. Then she drops her bombshell “Mummy, something feels stuck in my ear”. I check her ear. Nothing there. I tell her so. “Actually mummy, I know there is – I stuck a chick pea in my ear at school”. I ask her when. She thinks it was a few ‘sleeps’ ago.

I wearily pack a bag of wipes, books and snacks. It’s 8pm and we’ll probably spend the rest of the night in casualty.

We get there and I’m horrified to find that the same nurse is on duty that was there the last time we went a month ago. Damn. She remembers us. She gives me a tight lipped smile and tells me smugly that we’re in for a long wait. I don’t blame her. We caused a bit of a scene the last time we were here.

Mia had an ear infection and she was crying in pain. And that has a totally different effect on me than when she cries because I won’t let her have chocolate for breakfast. Said nurse decides to administer medication to ease the pain until we can see a doctor. Mia is hysterical. Shit. How do I deal with this?

I can’t think at my normal speed because emotion is involved. Yes. I know. My inability to deal with emotion is a recurring theme.

She’s screaming “Mummy, help me. Don’t let them do this”. And it’s killing me. But I want her pain to stop so I help them. I’m having difficulty holding her arms down.

That nurse loses patience with me and snaps "You’re not in control mum. You should be in control. Do your job”. I ask her calmly if she has any children. She says “No”. I scream at her at the top of my voice, tears streaming down my face “Well fuck off then!”

They finally manage to get it down her throat. Mia sits up wiping her mouth. She turns to the same nurse, points her little finger at her and scolds her with “That was not a nice thing to do to someone. You shouldn’t do that to people. You are not a nice lady”.

We stare defiantly at her. Me and my girl. Us against the world. Well, one nurse. But the principle of unity is the same.

So we’re in for a long wait and I can’t even complain. A chick pea in her ear is hardly grounds to demand to be seen before a baby that’s shooting out from both ends.

I look around and suddenly realise that all the other children have both parents with them. And what are the chances of that happening in London? Or anywhere in fact? Just my bloody luck.

I brace myself. Here it comes. I’m overwhelmed by loneliness. Not for long though. I notice Mia is about to get on a grubby bike. I grab the wipes and hurtle across the room towards her clutching them like a defensive shield and screaming “Noooooooooooo!” I pull her to safety. Then attack the bike in a wiping frenzy.

One packet of wipes and three hours later we finally get seen. No sign of the chick pea. I am advised to put a few drops of warm olive oil into her ear. I double check his ID to make sure he is a doctor and not a porter.

That’s what my mother suggested so naturally I assumed it was another one of those village ‘pearls of wisdom’ that could safely be filed under ‘useless – possibly dangerous’; along with their cure for constipation which is…..wait for it…..sticking half a bar of soap up your bottom!

The fact that you always went to the toilet shortly afterwards convinced them of its effectiveness. And speaking (sadly) from personal experience I can vouch that what they fail to take into account is that it not only brings out the poo, but half your bubbling insides along with it.

I thank the doctor and apologise to the nurse for swearing at her the last time we were here (it’s not her fault I can’t control my emotions).

We are driving home when ‘Just the Two of Us’ comes on the radio (I listen to Magic). I sing along. Mia loves it.

Then she says “That’s like us isn’t it mummy?” I blink back the tears and agree “Yes sweetheart, that’s like us”. She decides it is now ‘our song’ (apparently ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is too “babyish” now). And we sing together “just the two of us, building castles in the sky, just the two of us, we can make it if we try” until she falls asleep in my arms.

I stroke her hair, my tears falling on her beautifully innocent little face. It really is just the two of us. And who better to build castles in the sky with than a child who still believes that anything is possible?

It’s 3am. His arm rests heavily across my waist. I clench and unclench my buttocks yet again. My stomach is starting to cramp. What I am doing is totally unnatural.

A sharp pain shoots through my groin. It’s time to admit defeat. I gently move his arm and get out of the bed. I head for the bathroom. Then realise that it is too close to the bedroom.

I walk quickly (in a most peculiar bum clenching fashion) to the living room. Close the door. Move towards the window. Open it. And let out a long (and very loud) fart.

I would never have had those bloody onions on the pizza if I had known that I was going to end up in bed with Anthony.

I’m wafting it towards the window when I notice the light flashing on the answer phone. It’s my mother “Kitty, it’s your mother”. She always starts her messages with that superfluous statement.

I turn the volume down. My mother never talks. She shouts. “We haven’t heard from you today and we’re worried. Phone me as soon as you get this message.”

I can hear the rattle of the phone as she tries to hang up then she carries on talking (to my father) “Of course she isn’t home, Mia is with her father so she is probably out doing god-knows-what-with -god-knows-who. If only she hadn’t left her husband. Mark was a good man” She lets out a big sigh “I miss him”.

Then she is distracted by one of those awful Turkish soaps that she is addicted to. “Ooh, has he found out that his- lover- is- actually- his- long- lost- sister- and- his- wife- is -her -mother -and –that- his- son -has been- having- sex- with- his- auntie, yet?”

My mother has selective amnesia. She will have conveniently forgotten her initial reaction to Mark; we were in her kitchen when I finally plucked up the courage to blurt out “I’m engaged!” (they didn’t even know I had a boyfriend).

She immediately (and very dramatically) collapsed into a chair before exclaiming “Oh my god! He is English, isn’t he?” in the same tone you would adopt to say “Oh my God! He is a blood sucking, flesh eating, kitten drowning, psychopathic paedophile, isn’t he?”

My grandmother took to her bed wailing “Aman AllahIm” (“Oh my god”) over and over again. And my father demanded that I summon him to the house immediately.

My mother answered the door, took one look at him, burst into tears and ran off crying “He is blond, we can’t even pass him off as Turkish”. My grandmother’s wailing got louder (and louder).

My father led Mark into the guest room where he had arranged three chairs, interrogation style, in the middle of the room.

Mark was made to sit opposite my parents (the chairs were so close that their knees almost touched). My father fired question after question at him while my mother simply wept loudly in his face.

After at least an hour of this my father asked him the final question "Do you love my daughter?" to which Mark responded, "With all due respect sir, would I put myself through this if I didn’t?"My father allowed himself a little smile.

And I allowed myself a little sigh of relief as I watched through the crack in the door. I had been rebelling against my upbringing ever since I ate my first packet of bacon flavour crisps at the age of eight. But I still cared a great deal about what my parents thought. Although I only (consciously) realised that when I was looking death in the face;

It was a lesbian friend’s birthday (I only mention her sexuality because it becomes relevant later in the story) and we were celebrating it in Brighton. It was late by the time we finally stumbled out of the club. Totally off our heads. And decided to go home with someone we had only just met. There were seven of us so it felt safe (and the first train wasn’t for another two hours).

It quickly became apparent that all was not right with our gracious host. His behaviour was odd. He made random religious statements. And he was jumpy.

We got to his flat to be greeted by a very skinny, nervous cat. That alone should have tipped us off. But it was cold outside and the flat was warm. So we continued to dismiss sign after sign.

Until he suddenly got up and went over to the cabinet. He took out a bottle of pills and popped a few. Then he took out a gun. Yes, a fucking gun. He sat down cross legged next to me and started rocking back and forth with his finger on the trigger.

His face got redder and redder as his rocking became more and more frantic. He was mumbling incoherently. I was the closest to him so I would be the first to go. You expect your life to flash before your eyes at a moment like that. You’re supposed to think of all the things that you won’t live to see. The children you’ll never have. The countries you’ll never visit.

Do you know what was going through my mind the moment I realised that I was probably going to die? "Oh fuck, Mum and Dad will go ballistic. I’m going to be found dead in a house full of gay people and drugs"

Yes. That is how deep it goes. So the fact that I love Anthony is only half the battle. An Englishman was bad enough. But would they ever come to terms with a Greek? I suppose it’s not entirely impossible. They did grow to love Mark.

It wouldn’t be easy but I am (sort of) confident that they would eventually come to accept Anthony. I’m actually thinking about this in serious terms. It can only mean one thing. Three years on from the divorce and I think I am finally ready to commit again.

I let out one last fart. Close the window. And go back to bed. I feel a sense of calm (and not just because I no longer have trapped wind). I snuggle up to him. I feel happy. Warm. Secure. Anthony sleepily wraps his body around mine and whispers “I love you Maria”. I freeze. Who the fuck is Maria?