James and I will have been married for five years on Friday. I can hardly believe it! I know compared to other couples who are ticking off ten, twenty, thirty years; five is barely anything but to me it feels like a big deal.
We won’t actually be doing any celebrating on Friday – in the way of things when you marry a Chef James has an exceptionally busy day at work and will probably not be home much before 11.30pm.
So yesterday we went camping! Several things have happened of late which have made us determined to make the most of our time together as a little family. James always has Sundays and Mondays off, so we hatched a plan that we would buy a load of camping gear and whenever the forecast for the weekend was looking decent I would book us a night away at a local campsite and we would get away and enjoy some family time without TV and the iPad and playbarn after playbarn.
So this was our trial run to see how Blake took to life under canvas, and was also our Anniversary celebrations rolled into one. We booked for Twitey’s Tipis just outside Stratford which is a beautiful camping meadow – pitches mown out of long grass with a warren of mown pathways in between, beautiful sunsets and as luck would have it next door to a local flying club (cue shriek after shriek of AIRPLANE MUMMY! AIRPLANE DADDY!)
I was pretty nervous to be honest – Blake is not always the most adaptable child and I’d unwisely read this hilarious piece a few days before packing up the car.
As luck would have it, Blake was in his element – helping Daddy with the tent, taking Danny Dog and Sarah Snake for a slither around the paths (they have since been washed), having fun with the wheelbarrows provided to guests to take your kit from car to pitch and later helping Daddy to build a fire in the fire-pit that comes with each pitch. And to top it all off, he settled like a dream and despite having a fairly stinky cold and cough, slept straight through the night.
Which left James and I some time to sit around the fire with a drink. It’s not tea at the Ritz or cocktails at Hotel du Vin but there was a real charm to sitting looking at the stars, reminiscing about our Honeymoon (sitting around camp fires in Africa) and just enjoying a conversation. We’ve come a long way. We are in our 30s. We have a mortgage, a child, responsibilities that at 25 I couldn’t have grasped. That first crazy flush of love has gone and in its place is a deeper love and better understanding of each other. I’m not sad about this – I am proud of us. At our Wedding my Aunt read this poem, which at the time I thought was a really beautiful statement about love:
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – William Butler Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
It is still one of my favourite poems, and I think it is such a beautiful, masterful use of words, but actually I don’t think it is a perfect description of love anymore. There is something in the notion of giving up one’s dreams to another that doesn’t sit quite right with me – because what I realise is that James has never asked this of me, has never asked me to be anything other than myself.
And Lord knows I wouldn’t have blamed him – I am not naive enough to not recognise the fact that I am a LIVING NIGHTMARE at times. Horrible drunk. Nag. Anxious. Nervous. Totally opposing choice in film, TV, music. Consumed at times by books, to the extent of ignoring him for days on end. Virtually insane when tired. But he’s never asked me to change and I appreciate that more as time goes by. And so sitting and whiling away an hour in front of a crackling log fire with my best friend, reflecting on our five years whilst our child slumbered in the tent next to us felt like a pretty perfect celebration.
Today, I am not very well. Seeing as we had tea at a pub near to the campsite and had to send Blake’s sausages back as they were still partly raw, I’m pegging the blame on them. Either way, we packed up early and came home and I retired to bed while Daddy Daycare took over. And Daddy Daycare has been a total star and looked after me while spending some much needed time with his Son. As a Mum, I am guilty of forgetting sometimes that I am not the only one who can look after Blake. James has been crazy busy at work of late and has missed out on time with him, and he has in turn, in the way of toddlers, punished him for it in a subtly crafted game of emotional blackmail and insults. Poor James has sucked it up well, but it has made me sad. So ten whole hours together today has done them the world of good if the bath time laughter travelling up the stairs and the lovely display of affection I witnessed as I popped down at dinner time to ask James if we would go out and get me some Sprite is anything to go by.
So really James, this is a tribute to you. Five years ago we shared the happiest of days and our time since has been happy. This is not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate it if you could stop leaving pens in trousers that you put for the wash, but is my way of saying that you are a lovely husband, brilliant Dad and you are still the most decent man I’ve met. X