Wednesday, November 10, 2010
By Andrew Laws
I saw my mate Alan at The Steamboat last night. Actually scrap that - he’s not really a mate; he’s more of an irritant than a confidant. As you may have heard he’s just left his wife (the lovely Barbara) for someone he proudly calls ‘a younger model’.
I’m fairly sure you’ve never met Alan, and you should consider yourself blessed – he’s the kind of man who is blind to the disinterest and irritation of others. It’s pub etiquette that if you’re talking to someone who you only half know and they’re nodding politely and paying more attention to their pint than in engaging with you then you should take it as a sign to move on and find some other poor sod to bother.
Last night Alan was rattling on to anyone who wouldn’t listen about this new woman of his. I was about to tell you her name but in-between reeling off her vital statistics and bragging about how gymnastic she is I don’t think he got around to telling us her name. That if nothing else should give you an idea of the sort of man Alan is.
Many years ago when I first moved to this area and discovered what a great little pub The Steamboat is Alan’s (soon to be officially ex) wife Barbara was nearly as much of a fixture at the bar as Alan himself. We first started chatting when my Jane was still enjoying the novelty of being able to drink after recovering from a long illness (that is now thankfully a dot in our past). At first we both thought we had something in common with Alan and Barbara and enjoyed their company, but as Alan’s eye started to wander I guess he stopped inviting his wife to the pub, and we all soon found out that without the cheery garnish Barbara brought to his conversation Alan’s company became harder to swallow.
Unlike most bar flies Alan doesn’t appear to need any sort of response or input from others to maintain his enthusiasm for a theme, and last night was a prime example of his complete ignorance of how one should act in polite society. He can’t just hold an opinion as his own, in fact I don’t think Alan is entirely convinced by his own beliefs until everyone around him holds them as dear as he does. He’s a reverse social chameleon.
The couple of friends I happened to find myself at the bar with last night had the foresight to put some money on the pool table as soon as they saw Alan stride confidently through the front door and slam his car keys on the bar. I admired their well thought out escape from this conversational predator, although I didn’t look at them too kindly when they darted across the pub to their game the second the table became free, leaving Alan stuck to me like a loathsome loquacious limpet. They didn’t have to suffer him trying to convince me that I was jealous of his new ‘bird’. They were also lucky enough to escape the list of reasons why I should try something new, and why in his own words ‘I don’t know what I’m missing’.
As far as Alan is concerned there is no such thing as long term love: couples only stay together once the kids have flown the nest because they don’t know what else to do, and they’re scared of the world outside their own marriage. He told me Barbara hadn’t made him feel giddy and excited for years, and about how she had never ‘taken up the slack’ in their sex lives after menopause. Seriously! At that point I was starting to see a positive side for Barbara in all this!
He had the nerve to try and tell me that I’m fooling myself if I think I’m still in love, he accused me of being unadventurous and terrified of putting myself in a position whereby I might feel what he described as a feeling of exhilaration (but sounded more nauseous than wonderful). He demanded that I prove I’m still in love with Jane, but I decided to find my coat rather than find an answer.
I had little to say, and in the end I started to feel so sorry for the guy that I took myself off home for an early night. It makes me sad that Alan appears to have wasted his long marriage looking for reasons to be in love with his wife; I know some relationships come to an end quite naturally, and others have to end for rather more unpleasant reasons, but don’t you think it’s so sad that Alan left Barbara because he looked in the wrong places to find proof that he still loved her?
When I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep to take me, and Jane is curled up in my arms I feel such a sense of calm and peace. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes every muscle releases its grip on the day, and with Jane’s head on my chest and my hairy fat old arm laying down the curve of her back in a perfect fit I don’t need to ask my soul how I feel about my wife, because my body is already telling me I’m very much in love.