All at C

This week, I checked how many “reads” StrungOut has had, and where from. Loads of you have read things I’ve written (way more than I thought. Like, thousands of you)….some of you have commented, some of you are in Australia. By my standards, it’s going ok. So I will plough on.

I said a few posts ago that I am soon to marry a handsome man. This is true. We are to wed, in 5 short weeks or so, in the city of New York (at City Hall, pictured below) with a few close friends and our sisters. I still find it difficult to believe this is happening, as I did not have myself down as the marrying kind. Turns out, I’m delighted to be getting married.

I’ve even got a dress. (It’s currently in the dry cleaners/alterers at the end of our road with two hefty bosomed Greek ladies,who are so brilliant they deserve a blog post all of their own. I asked them to lower the dress’ neckline for me the other day. They nudged each other knowingly and one of them said, in her greek/cockney accent, “Aren’t you worried about up-leeft?” “No!” bellowed the other one. “She has lovely YOUNG TEETS!” Then they leant on one another, roaring with laughter about the days of yore, when they too had young teets, while I cringed and stared at the ceiling uncomfortably.)

Mr C, my fiance, is one of life’s good men. We met each other when we were both at the lowest point of both our lives to date, so many, myself included, assumed it would fuck up spectacularly early on. I think the utter lack of expectation of success was what kept us together at the beginning. There was none of the usual “where is this going?” nonsense that I usually obsessed about at the beginning of a relationship, as I was convinced for a fair amount of time that it was going nowhere. Mr C is more of a natural optimist where relationships are concerned. He listened to my nihilistic world view on love/commitment for about five minutes, before continuing to go about his business, unfazed.

There was a shift after about two months of being together. I was celebrating 6 months of not drinking, I was halfway through my sabbatical and Raven had just formed. I was temping in the council parking permit office from 9-2 every day and taking my cello with me into work so I could rehearse straight afterwards. Sometimes I would come home from schlepping my cello around London with red welts on my shoulders from where the crappy old straps had folded and sliced through my clothing. On my 6 month anniversary off the piss, Mr C met me at the train station, with brand new, luxury quilted straps for my cello case. He is not a musician, but he’d gone to a snooty string instrument shop in town and bought me the finest cello case straps money could buy. It was one the best presents I’d ever received. I immediately told my mum, who went all Olympia Dukakis and said, “He’s a keeper.”

Mr C is like me: i.e an ex inebriate. We met in a church hall basement at a meeting for the similarly afflicted. I had been sober for 4 months, he had been sober for 13 days. We were both mad, skinny, and shivering with anxiety. Mr C looked like a blonde Bob Dylan, the early years, all brooding intensity and Marlborough Reds.

He was young, he’d been kicked out of university, he hadn’t eaten or slept for a long time. His wee body was worn out from all its ill treatment, so he spent a lot of time fainting and sleeping in the early months. Neither of us had ever mastered the basics of eating/sleeping without chemical help and Mr C had no short term memory so we were bumbled haphazardly through early recovery, circadian rhythms and appetites hopelessly out of sync with what felt like the rest of the world. I’d recently moved down to London, he knew London well, so we took drives on his scooter all round the back streets and he showed me the city by night. When I wasn’t hyperventilating, I had a lovely time.

Like lots of recovering dipsomaniacs, Mr C is very intelligent, and a few months into his recovery managed to get himself reinstated into university and finished his degree, whilst working part time at an arts newspaper. Being a sober student is no easy feat in this day and age, so this was a big deal to us, particularly as when we met Mr C could barely remember what he’d had for breakfast, if indeed he’d managed to eat any.

On account of the way we came together, we didn’t have an easy start. If you subscribe to the view that addiction is an illness (many don’t, which is fair enough. They’re wrong of course, but I can sympathise. When attributed to addiction, the word “illness” can sound like something of a cop out, especially to the people that don’t suffer from it) being sober meant that we’d both surrendered our “medicine” if you like, so we were a bit wobbly, to say the least. In the circles Mr C and I move in, one is advised to avoid getting into a relationship in the first year of sobriety, for a number of reasons, not least because if it goes wrong there is a risk of relapse, which for one of us is no joke. Our friends worried that we’d replaced our substances of choice with each other, and it would get us into trouble later on.

We rowed a lot when we were first together. We were frightened, we were clueless, we were self obsessed, we were hypersensitive. We were also broke, at the beginning of our respective careers, attempting to repair the havoc we’d wreaked in the preceding years. Our “honeymoon period” was blighted with chemical withdrawals and emotional trauma, but we kept at it because we were still delighted to have met one another. After a couple of years, I was assailed with commitment phobia, which almost led to our demise. I became terrified of the future and irrationally, I was scared of our lovely relationship ending. I figured, statistically, the end was inevitable, so it seemed natural to try and control the whys, whens and wherefores myself. (To a fellow neurotic control freak this makes perfect sense.) My finger hovered for a while over the “destruct” button…..but luckily, Mr C saw past this and waited patiently for me to get a grip. This took a few months. It was difficult. I had to address some unpleasant truths about myself and learn that I can’t control the outcome of well…..anything whatsoever. Once I stopped obsessing, we recovered, so much so that when Mr C got down on one knee on a crisp winter’s morning in Central Park this January and asked me to marry him, it was a no brainer.
Soon, I will be Mrs C. Mr C will undoubtedly feature in StrungOut so here are 5 things you should know about him.

1. He’s got an English accent, but don’t let that fool you. Mr C is 100% Irish. The main indicators of his Irishness are a) his pigmentation. He tells people that he can can get sunburnt at night. This isn’t far from the truth. b) his speech is peppered with Irishisms, eg: “Will I bring this out to the car?” Grammatically correct sure, but an English person would never conjugate that sentence. There are loads more……he struggles with the “New” at the beginning of “Newspaper” or “New York”, preferring to say “Noospaper” and “Noo York” c) he only enjoys Irish sausages, shunning English ones (er hello, Cumberland??) in favour of dirt cheap Superquinn sausages, bought in bulk by his dad on his frequent trips to Dublin.

d) Mr C is Irish in nature. When asked how he is, he invariably replies “Great! Fine! Really well thanks”. It wouldn’t matter if he’d recently ruptured his spleen or lost a limb in a grisly factory accident, he would say the same. He thinks moaning is uncouth.

2. Mr C used to smoke 20-30 Marlborough Reds a day, until he saw an interview with one of his heroes, Christopher Hitchens.
Hitch was riddled with cancer and halfway through chemo, looking like a Belsen victim. Mr C watched that interview, bought “How to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr, and has not had a cigarette since. Soon after he purchased some trainers and to his bewilderment, found himself running around the park, wondering what the fuck had happened to him. He kept saying in dismay, “I’ve become one of those smug c**ts that run joyously around the park. I don’t know myself anymore.” No one was more baffled at the transformation than Mr C himself.

3. Mr C is inordinately fond of popcorn. He is a regular at the cinema, ostensibly because he enjoys the medium of film, but I know the truth. He could be going to see Rugrats 4, as long as there is an industrial sized bag of warm salted popcorn involved, all is well in his world. He doesn’t even blanche at the extortionate price. To curb his cravings I bought him a popcorn making machine a couple of Christmases ago. He was DELIGHTED with it. I am unlikely to spend a better £15.99. In retrospect I may have peaked too soon; I’m yet to top it gift wise. I hate the bubbling little bastard: it noisily fires popcorn seemingly all over the flat. After he’s used it I find popping corn in varying states, in the washing machine, on the bathmat, nestling in my hair or bra….for weeks afterwards.

4. Mr C is a pretty intense tech geek. Despite studying art history and being a talented artist, he works in the world of tech and is particularly obsessed with apps and social media. He’s a tech news hound and analyses websites for a living. As a result our flat looks like a branch of Comet. On the plus side, he taught me how to blog and I am abreast of every YouTube story going.

5. Mr C loves to sing. I didn’t know this when we were first together because things were hard. He was newly sober, crippled with self consciousness, and I suppose he didn’t have much to sing about. Sometimes I long for those days, because he was relatively quiet. About 6 months in, the singing started, and it hasn’t stopped. He has a lovely voice and a good ear, but he’ll get a tiny snippet of something in his head (it doesn’t have to be anything good, the sting on a Dove advert, or a ringtone will do just fine) and he will do-be-bab-a-do it in 1000 different ways before the day is out. It’s like a tic, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. My only recourse is to sing something else to him as a diversion tactic, just to get a different tune out of him. We’re both big Frasier fans and he’s had me demented singing the theme tune, with the wrong ending. I like his singing to be correct because I am a) a musician and b) a bit of a pedantic twat. He winds me up all the time doing this. Conversely, if he isn’t singing, it’s because something’s up. If it stops, I worry about him.

So that is Mr C. We are happy, but not complacent. Relationships go wrong all the time, we’re not so arrogant as to assume we are immune to hardship. Luckily we have been together at our worst, and we still managed to have a bit of a laugh, which romance aside, I suspect counts for a lot.