Magazine article The Spectator

Happy Families

Magazine article The Spectator

Happy Families

Article excerpt

Low life

I'm living with Sharon's younger brother Robin, in the house their Mum bought for them from her share of the divorce settlement. Other residents include Robin and Sharon's father, Jim, who isn't officially allowed on the premises and spends the night in his car; an extremely camp young man who says he is in love with Robin; and a gorgeous hippy chick with no formal education whatsoever, also in love with Robin.

Plus two dogs. A tall black-and-tan mongrel, very polite, the ownership of which is denied by all, and a grossly overweight Jack Russell belonging to Sharon's father.

Sharon herself is no longer here during the week. Her social-work diploma course was failing her, so she transferred to one in London. She comes back at weekends, but doesn't sleep here. Generally she stays with Darren, aka Odd Job, who is the first (official) boyfriend after me.

My going to live in Sharon's house, when I've only just come off the tablets as a result of Sharon giving me the sack, has, in many quarters, been condemned as a retrograde step. I can see why. For months I've been trying to forget her, then I move to a house where everywhere I took are stabbing little reminders of her. Her battered old trainers in the porch. That spiky handwriting of hers on the notice-board.

(Orange Post-It note: `Risk is the balancing of desire with safety.') The dog-eared copy of The Ages of Lulu in the bathroom. I'm even sleeping on her futon. (She prefers a futon to an ordinary mattress. You can get more purchase on a futon, says Sharon.) In mitigation I can plead that I'm only staying till Christmas, then I'm back at the Buddhists' place. Furthermore, at weekends I'm elsewhere being Dad, so I rarely have to clap eyes on her.

I hear about her, though. Odd Job has taken to coming round during the week and boasting about their burgeoning relationship. To begin with he couldn't believe his luck and kept taunting me about how he and Sharon were `going through the Kama Sutra' together. As you can imagine, this got in amongst me a bit. I tried telling myself that at the end of the day I'm not a cripple like him, but I would have changed places with him without a moment's hesitation. …

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