SUNDAY, 5pm, and after a five-year break from painting, I’m resurrecting my old studio. It’s a long way from Picasso’s atelier on the Riviera but it will do, like it always did, the job.
“It’s freezing up here,” my husband says, shivering at the top of the stairs.
“Yes,” I pant, hot as can be in my old blue boiler-suit, “the thing about studios is to have them just small and cold enough to concentrate the mind and stop visitors from hanging about in them.”
He shouts something over Woman’s Hour, which is broadcasting its opinion on Swedish prostitution laws from my laptop: this sort of thing played at high volume also stops visitors from hanging about, I used to find.
I say nothing for I’m trying to force a sofa through a small doorway, which is one of very few endeavours that will put me, quite against my nature, to complete and utter silence.
“We’ve got mid-term coming up,” he says, grabbing hold of the sofa.
My silence is now absolutely savage; we all know from childbirth, how pushing something too large through something too small can turn a woman funny.
“We could get away for a night down in Cunnamore, like we said. Pack up the car and maybe even take the...”
He interrupts himself suddenly by making elaborate groaning noises of exertion.
I drop my end of the sofa. “You were going to say “bikes”, weren’t you?” I accuse.
“No,” he says, still holding his end, coming over all defamed.
My husband is in the kitchen, making up a bottle for our daughter’s friend’s toddler. She’s tucked under my husband’s arm, smiling up at him as if he’s something wonderful she’s just pulled out of a lucky-dip.
“And tomorrow,” he says, putting her up on the counter gently and chatting away to her in that lovely way he always had with babies, “after you’ve gone home to Mummy, we’re going away for the night and we’re going to take the...”
“The what?” I say, entering the kitchen.
“Christ,” he says, grabbing her little ankle, “you gave her a fright,” and looks at me with such grave disappointment it would make you think, if you weren’t careful, that all the slander is really getting him down.
We are in the car, heading west with one bike in the back. “Just for me,” my husband says, swinging out of the drive, “in case the weather picks up.”
“Why are we stopping here?” I say, as my husband pulls up outside a friend’s garage.
“Christ,” he protests, all defamed again, “it’s like being married to Saga Noren.” His friend fixed his bike, he says, he’s just picking it up. May as well do it now as later.
Thursday 11 a.m, and I am on a bike, staring up an incline. “You only said ‘sea-level’ because it sounded flat,” I say, “and any fool can see that that,” I point, “is not a ‘gentle potter’. It is a cliff.”
“The great thing about biking,” he says, whizzing past me, “is that for every up there’s a down.”
He shouts from the top, when I am halfway up the cliff, “this is great isn’t it?”
“You’re going great guns,” he shouts, when I’m a yard past the halfway-mark, and entering the danger zone, where fury alone is keeping me going, “you’re fitter than you think you are!”
“I knew you’d be good at it!” he shouts, when I’m nearly at the top, and wondering whether in the history of womankind, anyone’s face has ever burst.
“Come on,” he shouts, just like he did when I was in childbirth, “last push now.”
And now, when I am just crowning the top, and fury has put me, quite against my nature to complete and utter silence, he says, “so, on a scale of one to ten, how was that for enjoyment?”
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