Goodbye my lover
24 February, 2013
My tears and anxiety over leaving the old house didn’t last as long as I’d expected. Surprisingly, I was over the horrendous loss of home and hearth a mere 24 hours later. The first house I viewed was great so within ten days we’d moved on, moved in and pretty much unpacked (except for all the stuff we pretended didn’t exist).
The new house happened to be almost exactly the same as the old one, except for a few small differences. Fantastic I thought, we’ll learn to adapt to the changes, but this could be brilliant. And adapt we have. Central heating, an upstairs bathroom – which is heated, a brand new kitchen, tidy low-maintenance garden, double glazing, wooden kitchen floor and beautifully painted, yes I’m coping with the changes. Also, we’re in Witney now instead of being an inconvenient £15 taxi ride home after a night out. Ok, we’ll miss getting cut off by snow and flood water through the year. We’ll miss those AA call-outs when I’d forgot to put petrol in the car before driving home. When I’d have to pretend there was some “unknown” problem with my car. Ok, maybe the breakdown guys pretty much always found me out, but they were very nice about it. The thing with the AA is, if you just act really dumb they totally believe you have an IQ of about 20 and work around you. One time I was taking care of my friend’s car and all I had to do was move it from one driveway to another before she came back from holiday. So the fated evening came when I went to move the car and predictably, it wouldn’t start. She was in the AA so I had to pretend I was her when I called them out. So the breakdown guy arrives, checks the engine and announces to my utter amazement that my car has an immobilizer – situated on the dashboard. What could I say but, “Really, has it?” So the guy just stares at me and says, “What’s the code for it? You need to punch the code in and then your car will start”. So, obviously, like any normal car owner with an immobilizer I replied, “Really, will it?” Now at this point, I think that a normal person might have a teensy weensy intuitive suspicion that I had possibly not driven my car much/ever. But no, the AA man didn’t bat an eyelid when I explained that my er, husband, always er, starts the car for me if I’m going anywhere and that I’d have to, er, call him and ask him for the immobilizer code in order to drive my er, own car off my er, own driveway. Nope, Mr AA though it was completely normal thing to happen – I suspect to a woman. The RAC, on the other hand, are not quite so un-judgemental, understanding or helpful. They chucked me out of the RAC for what? Locking my keys in the car five times in the first month. Unreasonable or what?
The day before I’d left the old house I’d got an unexpected call from “Fearsome Reenie”, my landlord’s right-hand woman. Now, Reenie has evicted tenants at Xmas with newborn babies, so I was rightfully a bit scared to find her on my phone. What’s coming now, I thought. Reenie said “Joe wants to come and see you, to say goodbye, is that ok?” I could hear Joe barking in the background – he doesn’t do phones (and no, he’s not a dog, ok?). “I’d love Joe to come and see me” I said with heartfelt enthusiasm, Reenie laughed. Y’see, Joe was my secret love, you didn’t know about him, in fact, I don’t think anyone knows about me and Joe (ok possibly Reenie). He arrived in my life when I moved into the house and despite grumbling and moaning every time I broke the shower, taps, stair rail, light fittings, cupboard doors, kitchen drawers etc, I was his love and he was mine. He’d sit in my kitchen drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with me about the state of the world (according to the Sun) for an hour or two, before looking at any task he was going to undertake. Then he’d go off to get parts and come back the next day and have another hour or two of coffee with me before he got started. And many a day he’d have a coffee with me before he finished at 3pm. And, in the course of ten years of damage that we inflicted on that house, Joe and I built ourselves quite a friendship. Sure, there was a lot of scorn and deprecating humour on his part (nice), but beyond that Joe and I came to a fine understanding of the world – one we shared. Now on paper there wasn’t much about us that was a match. Bad matches between me and Joe include:
- He was married – to Fearsome Reenie (and still is).
- He had four children all of which are my generation.
- He is interested in the news – whereas, I visit the Daily Mail online (but only to look at the plastic surgery gone-wrong photos).
- I break stuff; he fixes stuff.
And here’s some things you should know about Joe.
- Joe is very honest and has no time for BS. We shared this quality (I like to think). We pretty much agreed on the general state of play of the world (er, it’s full of BS).
- He had a great sense of humour (well, I assumed he was joking when he said those things about me).
- Every year he gave Reenie the same birthday card, when it came down off the mantle piece he’d put it away for the next year. After 40 years he noticed it was getting a bit worn, so he got her a new one as a surprise (a couple of years ago).
- Joe went abroad once and didn’t like it, so he didn’t bother with “abroad” ever again.
- I didn’t think Joe could read (the Sun doesn’t count), but I found out he reads historical novels for pleasure, which I have to say was quite a shock.
- His youngest son died in a car crash at 17. He said they just cried for months; but eventually he found himself laughing about all the wild things his wild child had gotten up to while he’d lived life to the full.
- Joe fixed things, not people, but he always gave great parenting advice.
- If you crossed Joe, he’d never forgive you. He’d speak to you, but he wouldn’t forget it.
So, Joe came over for a last chat round my kitchen table, I interrupted my rubbish attempt at packing-up my rubbish and had coffee with him instead. I have to say, I’ve learned a lot from him over these years, he’s given me a lot of advice – while coarsely laughing in my face. Joe and I both know I’ve left that house a different person from the girl who moved in, and we both know there are a lot of memories I’ll happily leave behind. But you know what? All my memories of Joe are good. As we parted he told me to call him if there is anything I need, anytime. He always had this catchphrase he used to say as a goodbye to me, in his broad Oxfordshire accent. But weirdly, he didn’t say it this time, dunno why not. So when he reached the door I said to him,
“Goodbye my luvvur, I’d best get on.”