On Wednesday Jen and I will have been married for 15 years. Apart from breathing that is the longest single undertaking in my life. I have not lived in one place or held a job for that long. I left home at 13 to go to boarding school. I did return from boarding though but even my relationship with my own family does not have an unbroken 15 year session. I thought I might offer a few insights into what being married to me for 15 years looks like.
As one does, people ask us how we met. We usually say “Pat introduced us”. Which is true but of course there is slightly more to it than that. I used to frequent the 366 Bar in Earlsfield (South London). I amused myself teasing the locals, one of which was a girl called Pat Turnbull. Pat worked with Jenny. Pat decided that Jenny and I would make a good pair so she organised an evening for us to meet. Charades or some other bollocks I didn’t fancy at all. Also the night in question I had been invited to a party by a leggy blonde that I did rather fancy.
The leggy blonde pursuit didn’t pan out and one night a few weeks later I was perched in my usual chair in the 366 Bar when Pat walked in with a very tanned person in tow. (Jenny had just been on holiday, she goes quite dark in the sun). “Sandy this is Jenny” Pat said. I was accompanied by a long haired Kiwi surfie and Jenny spent the evening listening to me talking rubbish. Clearly impressed, when I asked for her number she declined to give it. Pat gave me her number and I rang her. Eventually we went out for dinner. Jen devoured a large rare steak and professed a fondness for rugby. This was going to go well.
A few months later my visa expired and I had to return to NZ. Jen came out for a visit in February 1995. For reasons known only to her, she decided to rent out her house in London, leave her job and move to New Zealand for about 6 months. Her Mum’s words “that there were plenty more fish in the sea” ringing in her ears as she left the UK.
So… what richness have I bought to Jenny’s life?
Well, I got off to a great start by making her live in a house which we came to call “second goat house on the left”, in the foothills of the Ruahine ranges. This is near Dannevirke (which had little to recommend it as a place to live). Certainly in winter you could see the steam from your breath whilst watching television. You would go to bed with woolly hat and socks. We then decided to move up to Hawkes Bay proper and rented the Old Shearers Quarters on Moorea farm. This is on the Kahuranaki Road out behind Te Mata Peak at Havelock North. A truly wonderful location and we had many happy times there in the Hawkes Bay sun.
Over the years Jenny has taught me many things. A bit of tolerance, manners, etiquette, patience, a smattering of French and generally how to behave. I have also taught Jenny many things. How to run over possums or deal with them in the loo with a baseball bat. How to drown a dog mauled wild turkey when no blunt or sharp instrument is handy. How to feed a starving lamb with a washing up glove and a pin. Jenny has also learned how to shoot peach eating possums off telegraph poles in the garden from the bedroom window, naked. Speaking of naked, Jenny also now knows how to evict a freshly weaned calf from the garden at 4am, naked, but with wellies on. Jen is still at a loss as to why I didn’t find this as hilarious as she did. I just hate being woken at 4 am by lost and confused livestock in the garden that’s all! She also learned how to deflect a mouse flicked into her face from under a dresser. So being married to me Jen has learned some really useful stuff.
I learned that Jen isn’t showy or pretentious so felt she would be delighted to be driven to our actual wedding in the old shearers quarters in a beaten up Holden utility vehicle (ute in kiwi speak) with a broken fridge on the back. And we got married by a fat and drunk J.P.
I was then working for the Hospitality Association of NZ . A fantastic job which meant I got to travel around the central North Island a lot … going to the pub. Jen wasn’t allowed to work so used to join me on adventures sometimes. I took her to all the best places. Like the pub in Ruatoria where I advised her to stay in the car with the doors locked while I went inside. Jen loves to ride horses and a neighbour lent her a barely broken in ex Polo pony to ride. After the first attempt to get on it resulted in her breaking her foot right off her leg (which subsequently got re-attached). Our life then became more complicated. I don’t cook so it’s lucky for me that Jen loves to. She was then non weight bearing and could not stand without a pair of crutches. I very considerately rigged up a rough disabled friendly sort of system in the kitchen to allow her to continue her love of cooking (and washing up).
Jenny loved to go to the beach but as she was on crutches this became far more difficult. I would stand at the surfs edge with my surf casting rod while she sat at the edge of the beach on the solid ground. This made conversation difficult of course and even more so, the sharing and lighting of cigarettes. Luckily we had little Sterling, a miniature pointer we were dog-sitting. She shuttled between us with ciggies and notes in a plastic bag round tied to her collar.
Car journeys became less comfortable for Jenny and I guess not helped on occasion by me taking her over the most direct route between Hastings and the central North Island with her leg resting on the dashboard. A winding pot-holed gravel road called the Gentle Annie!
After a time we moved back to the UK and Jen got her old job back and I went back in to the media scene in London. Jen always enjoyed my need for new challenges and many changes of job. A lady loves a husband who keeps her on her toes rather than just a boring stable steady source of income for the home.
Jen and I share a sense of humour, except about flatulence. I am a bloke and some of us find farting funny. Apparently it was not funny though to teach the 6 year old son of a good friend about farting in a swimming pool. It is not funny either to attempt to squeeze out a quiet fart whilst sitting on a canvas chair in polite company, Especially when what was supposed to be quiet turns up loud instead. It seems that another thing that is not funny is to run, screaming, out of the darkness to frighten a small gathering of friends, in the dark, in rural France.
I have many strong points of view but it seems I have yet to learn when it is appropriate to voice them. I think I am getting slightly better at it. Jen really always enjoys me expressing my lack of satisfaction at things. We used to commute for example. I once chased (at a walk) a ticket collector until he locked himself in his little office on the train. I felt he was taking liberties asking to see tickets for a train ride that should have happened 2 hours previously. I told him so, in quite a forceful manner. I also told another ticket collector I was on strike from showing my ticket as he and his chums had just disrupted my week by being on strike. Jen loves it when I come up with this stuff in a crowded train carriage.
We dine out quite a bit and Jen adores it when I have a chat with the proprietor of an establishment that I feel is on the expensive side. I might ask something like “Do you have a Michelin star”? “No? So can you please justify to me the prices on the menu?”
Did you know that at very smart dinner parties, when the port arrives, you pour your glass from the decanter and then pass it to the person on the left? I didn’t, but I do now. I found out the hard way, but Jen loves it when I learn things in polite society.
As well as being married to Jenny, I am also very very lucky to live a life surrounded by invisible helpers. Pixies I guess. The pixies pick up my discarded knickers and socks. They do the washing up and clear away stuff. They keep the garden in order and they clean up after me whenever I go and leave things lying about. That’s really cool.
Sometimes in life you have to make some tough decisions about things. Jen was of course very relieved when I decided we would give her dog away rather than mine when they started fighting all the time. Too tough a call for her to make of course.
When in company, no one likes strained silences in the conversation and luckily for Jenny I am always able to fill these with my witty banter and enormous general knowledge. I think it’s important to have an opinion about absolutely everything and share it with anyone who will listen. Jen appreciates my contributions as it saves her having to worry about what to say next when the chat slows.
I am very proud that my wife can name more members of the All Blacks team than any English side. Jen is also now pleased she knows all the reasons for the games the All Blacks have lost. There are always mitigating circumstances, and no I am not “just a bad sport”.
So it’s been a fantastic 15 years. I have a wonderful wife and have learned some great things. We have had some amazing adventures. Jenny’s life has been enriched and enhanced by having the pleasure of my company of course and here is to the next 15 years.