Oh how I’ve chortled at the witticisms of some of my favourite food writers. The retorts about never knowingly under catering from Nigella, Ina talking about good food, good company and cocktails being a perfect evening- they have given me the same false hope they give everyone. Sure, I’m not waiting 12 minutes for a Dr Oetker Ristorante pizza to cook whilst watching, which is the critique from some of the patronising commentators of the boom in food media, but at a time where my money is being ploughed into flooring and replacing UPVC windows, it leaves me as somewhat of an artist without portfolio. I still have my hob, for a little longer yet. And I have my oven. But half my spices are in the spare room behind the work surfaces and boxes of decorative touches I’ve amassed over just 3 years. You know, the sort of witty finds Tiffany in West London’s home is famed for (still can’t stick Tiffany and her cocoon of fawn paint). I will undoubtedly unpack the boxes and realise that they are filled with a load of old tat as worthless as a Charles and Di tea service. Although personally I think my William and Kate commemorative tea tray from Wilkinsons was an investment.
It feels like something in me quite profound, quite defining has been halted. Its not merely a case of inconvenience, although please don’t be fooled, its so bloody inconvenient. But my favourite room, one which I had most input in, which I could take over, which I could make my own every day, has gone. I know it will be new and improved in some weeks to come, but its not there in the here and now. It’s now a bench, with a microwave on it. Its a sink on a unit which wobbles if you scrub too vigorously. It’s a couple of drying mats on top of the washing machine, which if you forget to clear away and put a wash on ends up being a clattering noisy nightmare when it reaches the spin cycle. It’s dusty, with a floor requiring a daily mopping. It’s a few cardboard boxes full of randomly kept food items. Bulgar wheat and Sriracha but no vinegar, earl grey teabags but no cumin, Nutella but no dried chilli. Ill judged, impossible to organise, I now loathe meal times or entering the kitchen. I can’t remember my old kitchen now, all I feel is panic, annoyance, a real desire to get the heck out of there as soon as I enter. I hate food shopping, as I don’t feel in control of the process of what I’m doing in the kitchen anymore. I have no idea when the hob is coming out, how long we will have the oven for. I know I sound possibly a bit melodramatic, but look, I’m a guy who started this blog to talk about my life in my kitchen, it’s an important part of me. Definitive if you will.
I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but this is affecting me quite profoundly. I am finding myself easily aggravated, stressed out, argumentative. I find myself short tempered with people who usually get my most tolerant self. I am less motivated too, and have to really talk myself into the tasks I need to tackle, including today walking Daphne. Bless her, it’s usually my pleasure, but today I struggled to drag myself from in front of Doctors. If anyone knows what happened to the swimmer with amnesia, let me know.
I feel overwhelmed and down about the impact of the build a lot of the time. I’m not sure I thought this was going to happen. It was a future plan, something we will do at some point, some day. I felt a bit frozen as we started discussing it a bit more. We got in touch with our old builder, and he delivered us a quote. A significantly high quote, I felt a bit relieved I will admit. If we are priced out, we can stand still. I still find myself wrestling with guilt every day over not being closer to my parents as they cope with my dad’s illness and it’s impact, every day still feeling sad about what my father’s illness will bring, how it will affect us all. The thought of this additional upheaval and all the unexpected that comes with it- it made my chest feel tight and I felt pinched and stressed. It’s odd to write this down, knowing I’m going to publish this online. It doesn’t read as unreasonable, but I was so scared to say this to Pete. I didn’t want him to feel held back, disappointed, like he was missing an opportunity.
I am not sure why the words couldn’t come out. Perhaps this is the reality of adulthood, the art of compromise isn’t a god given skill but is learnt. Years ago, when Pete had faced a lot of change and couldn’t realistically cope with any more, we stepped away from buying a house and decided to do it another year where it wouldn’t run the risk of being the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was tough for me. I wanted to move on, but I knew I had to let that go, despite the fact it was tough to do so, until the time came that he joined the conversation about where we should move on to. Pete never stopped wanting to, he just wasn’t ready to make the move.
Having been in that position, I didn’t want Pete to have to hold his tongue. As I have said before, it will never be a good time to do it. And at least we have had a fair April so far, so the progress is impressive. So whilst this wouldn’t have been my choice, it is certainly my reality. I cannot do much now, the foundations are set, the brickwork is going up and the kitchen units are in the box room. There is no going back, no hitting reset, no scope to “leave it as it is”. I need a coping mechanism. It can’t be wine, it can’t be shopping as I need the money for a wood burning stove, so what then?
I’ve taken the advice of a friend and am considering running clubs locally for a bit of an endorphin- related rush. There are a number available, the concerns I have all are based on my insecurities. I hate group situations when you don’t know people, and the polite chit chat.
I don’t care how far society may have come, there is always an anxiety for a gay person when having to enter these situations and having to come out yet again. Ok, so I’m 36, I’m cohabiting and I’m confident with it all, but the biggest lie we tell ourselves about life is that there is a level of confidence that we can achieve following which we honestly don’t give a shit what other people think. It’s just not true. We read people all the time, their mannerisms, their responses, and we study their words like they belong to the Bard. If I meet someone and say I live with my boyfriend, or the less-threatening gender neutral “partner”, I wonder if they approve, if they appear blasé I wonder if it’s genuine. It makes me hold back a bit, a stupid act of self preservation in case people don’t like what I am. Frankly, I should probably worry about who I am, for I fear that may be my biggest issue in life, but deep down that’s probably all linked to the fact I’m a big bag of insecurities and low self-esteem disguised as gregarious. Anyone who has met me will tell you this is true. But I’m hoping I can persevere and try something new, which may help me with my other mental barrier, which slows me down running. Every time I race, my times slow down. Not just busy cattle pens of runners at the starting line slower, chunks of time being over cautious slower. Given the fact I’m signed up to run a marathon in October and the Great North Run in September I want to break this trend, and prove to myself that I didn’t truly peak at 29, and that as I keep edging towards 40 I can be just as good as I was before.
I need to keep my mood up, so I’m making other plans too. I’m going to Bicester Village this week. This makes me happy. Not only because of the nice things, I also enjoy watching fools with money part very easily. Last time I went I saw a group of Chinese fashionistas buying what I can only describe as the worst costume jewellery ever sold. Spending over £1100 on tat that was in the outlet for obvious reasons. I also enjoy looking at the heavily discounted rails and picking things up and declaring to my friends why the piece didn’t sell. The rack in Burberry is always a particular gem as the answer is always “because this size 8 dress weighs 8 stone 4”. Honestly, always so heavy.
Just to say in summary- please note, this blog is also cathartic for me. It helps to get it out of my head in a non-repressive way. I will cope, it will be fine. I will do my own version of a Hello! shoot once the work is completed. Me lying on the banquet seating with Daphne. Me chopping something in an otherwise spotless kitchen in impractical clothing (always a shirt that would ruin with just one tomato seed). The works. But it’s hard just now. The light will appear, I know this much. And then I too will become a “worth it in the end, best thing we ever did, it’s over before you know it” bore. I just wish those days would hurry up, because I miss my things.