At the End of the Day

Have a relationship with nature, but go for a love affair with fellow humans

The cherries are ready at last. One tree’s entire crop has already been wiped out by three squirrels and umpteen Jays/Magpies, so the first task this morning was to make a point of being around the area, up a ladder, waving my arms about and generally behaving like a demented person. There is a degree of method in this eccentricity, because wildlife understands territory. Well, most of it does: hornets are the 400 lb gorillas of insect life – they sit where they bloody-well like, and if you decide to retake possession of the apple tree once they’ve started, then full astronaut gear is required to succeed in the eviction process without dying of anaphylactic shock.

Birds and rodents are more sensitive. Not so rabbits. Your average rabbit really does take the piss: I put some flat-leaf parsley in the herb bed last week, and the little buggers took the entire plant. I’m serious: they didn’t even bother to fill in the hole. I think on the whole, I’m mainly a bird person. The molluscs are slimy, the insects crawly, and the mice here seem to be candidates for the colostomy bag: they shit everywhere, even in their own food and on each other. When the mice move in, even the wasps mutter “There goes the neighbourhood”. The only animal I’ve encountered more anti-social than mice is the crocodile. A male crocodile will meet a female and, depending on his mood, either shag her or eat her. You just never know.

Luckily, we don’t have any crocs here. But last Wednesday morning very early, I did finally catch sight of Mr Fox, crouching under the noisette bush. He must be the chap who saw off a whole heron here three weeks ago. I mean – I don’t have the fingerprints and DNA evidence to prove it, but given the heron got mangled within three feet of there, he’s high on the list of suspects. He’s a big mother, too: whopping tail, and slightly darker in colour than the English version so beloved of the Labour Left. I like foxes: they have nobility, and they don’t take crap from anyone. Their problem is feeding frenzy syndrome: given the chance to carry off one chicken, they’ll do it…and kill the other seventeen they don’t want.

Today the weather’s been almost normally warm here, and so I cut lots of grass, and refilled all the vases with roses, ceanothus blooms and the few Nigella still left. This was me getting in touch with my feminine side, but as there’s nowhere near enough to go round, I have to ration it. After 4 pm when the sun started to cool, I stripped off at the poolside and went into Naturist guitar-blues mode. Walking around with nothing on and twiddling on a guitar are two of my favourite pastimes, so doing both at the same time is almost a sensory overload.

Hold the front page while I admit to something: I am not in a relationship at the moment. I mention this only as a rather clumsy segue into the fact that, for the first time in ages, I read somewhere today the phrase that ‘in a relationship’ has replaced: ‘having a love-affair’. Maybe it’s just me, but now I think about it, “I’m in a relationship” is very Orwellian 1984, don’t you think? Being in a relationship sounds like being in an institution: all correct and accounted for, jolly good – carry on…no sex-crime here thank you very much.

But having a love-affair: blimey, that’s something else: pure Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard: caution to the winds and screw what anyone else thinks. It’s not about transactional analysis and my space/your space, it’s about losing yourself in the passion, the fascination and the tactile pleasure of a suddenly-discovered soulmate. Sometimes it’s merely lust, but in the best cases it develops beyond that and into the joy of sharing, collaborating, supporting and savouring. Everything becomes mutual: rational understanding, emotional companionship, and sensory intimacy.

That is, of course, too much analysis. A love affair is like comedic genius and great writing: analyse it too much, and the magic migrates somewhere else. Tony Hancock found this, and in the end the realisation drove him to suicide. A love affair, above everything else, requires acceptance – if you like, a leap of faith and a lack of judgement. But relationships can and do get analysed….to death. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining our high divorce rate.

It may surprise you to learn this, but my parents started with a love affair. She was a middle class Anglican and he was a working class Catholic. They met at the height of the Manchester Blitz in late 1940. All the portents said “Don’t do it”, but they did. The wedding (disapproved of by both families) was without flowers or music, but the reception was with real people and a great deal of black market Champagne supplied by my Dad’s employer, Stan Stewart. Inevitably things got out of hand, and the Best Man – my sex-mad Uncle Frank – wound up getting a black eye from Auntie Marjorie’s boyfriend.

My Mum and Dad didn’t have a relationship: they had a love-affair that turned into a Mutual Society nobody and nothing could break. I might have a relationship with nature here; but I’ve been having a love-affair with the house and grounds for fifteen years. More and more, I am minded to keep it come what may. I hope that turns out to be possible.

Earlier at The Slog: Frau Mutti Merkel answers all your questions