32 or is it 43?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 24 May 2020

1976 was the hottest summer on record. 35 degrees and counting. I was working at the Leeds Playhouse rehearsing 'England Expects' a show that 'Belt and Braces', our theatre group, was relaunching.

Six years earlier I was at a Children's Theatre Festival in Harrogate. My first job, enthusiastic, eager and single. I saw an actor playing 'The Monkey' in 'The Tale of the Red Dragon'. The actor had a head of unforgettable red curls and was mesmeric.

When I got the call from his agent, half a dozen years later, I booked him on the spot. The Monkey is indeed the old git.

We sat outside the Leeds Playhouse, sweltering in the heatwave, talking about the resignation of Harold Wilson, the new music phenomenon called Punk and a geezer called Steve Jobs who was introducing an apple computer thingy. It'll never catch on we said.

And then we embarked on our first tour of Sweden. Eight of us and roadies, musical instruments, a collapsable set and the willingness of youth. We were taking revolution to Scandinavia. From Stockholm to Uppsala from Gothenburg to Malmo. The Monkey and I talked - in the truck, on the train, aboard boats, in coffee shops and theatrehusets - incessantly. I asked questions and he knew the answers. I did buy him a badge twelve years later that said 'I know everything' and the fucker actually wore it, in fact he still does only now it's got Suki's teeth marks on it where she tried to eat it.

We stayed up all night chewing the fat on the Orient Express from Umea, 250 kilometres from the Artic Circle, down to Skane. Our wooden banquettes left unruffled as the speeding train lurched and swayed and the sun came up over Lund a university city in the southernmost tip of Sweden. At 6.00 a.m we walked through the cobblestoned old town to Ralph's house where we ate toast and knackerbrod. A crumb caught the bottom of my lip and too embarrassed to move it I figured something was going on, had The Bleeding Monkey captured my heart?

And then we did a gig on the canals in Copenhagen. The egomaniacal director insulted and abused me and The Monkey witnessed it. After we'd done the get-out and the collapsable stage was loaded into the van the old git was seen chucking up into the gutter. The whole experience, watching another human being treat another human being so appallingly, made him sick. It was the first time anybody had ever chundered on my behalf. It must be love.

On February 7th 1977 a bronze Ford Cortina with a matt black bonnet swung into Queens Crescent. Thirty minutes after midnight we walked to the Greek restaurant opposite the Round House, I ordered Moussaka he had Kleftico, and then the row of all rows ensued. I've never eaten Moussaka since.

Now we fast forward to 1988; a cottage, a television, a boudoir grand piano, a garden, vinyl and CD's, a washing machine, a Chesterfield, two cars, a motorbike, regular jobs and an eighteen-month-old baby that needed legitimising. So on May 25th we went to the register office, me looking like his Aunty Amy and him looking like a solicitor, and we tied the knot. My Russian wedding ring got stuck the wrong way on my finger and my mother called out to the registrar that there was indeed a lawful impediment to our getting hitched, so the ceremony was paused only for my mother to shout "Just a joke. Just a joke.' We went to our next door 17th Century Inn and ate a meal off a lacy tablecloth that the landlady provided. My new husband smoked a fag then left the table and went swimming with the best man leaving me, the new mother-in-law and the now legitimate child to walk home.

Ten days later we had a party and all the telly folk guests bought us fancy, schmancy gifts. Last year the hand made ceramic bowl fell off the trolley and shattered; the terrarium got smashed in the bedroom and the red telephone box with a telephone stuck in it sits in the attic but the phone don't work. Other wedding gifts are scattered round the house.

I tell you this because tomorrow, on Bank Holiday Monday, we would have been married for 32 years, however, lock-down means no party, no cards, no celebratory curry at 'The Rose of Bengal', no guests, no concert, no theatre, no trip to the seaside - I know that Dominic Scumbag would encourage me to have a day out but.....it'll be me, the old git, the isolating dawter and a bottle of fizz. We've been together now for 43 years and it don't seem a day too long - which is a total fucking lie of course; forty-three years with a Northern actor who thinks he knows everything has been, dare I say it, challenging but I wouldn't have it any other way. The traditional gift for 32 years of wedded blitz is - wait for it -'Transportation', whatever that means. Now, if we include the eleven years when we were living ower t'brush we would have been cohabiting for 43 years and the traditional gift for 43 years of partnership would be - wait for it -Travel. What's the chances? Transportation instead of rubies or gold. No pearls, no silver, no ceramic bowls or tin but flaming travel in Covid Lockdown.

I repeat, 'would I change a thing?' Of course not. I love the old git as if it were yesterday, only it ain't. It is most definitely now, whatever the quantum physicists say. So here's to another 32 years with my Northern git of a husband, although I'll be 103 and he'll be monkeying around somewhere in a theatre in the cosmos.

Still, a very Happy Anniversary to my champ of a chimp.

The bustard has just waved his badge at me and told me that a chimp is an ape - not a monkey.

Fucking know-all.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At May 25, 2020 1:14 PM June wrote:

Hi
Darling girl, you have made me smile. It is such a blissful piece of writing. Congratulations to you both.
After signing THE petition, e mailing my MP, and raging over the whole topic of arrogance, self entitlement and lack of integrity concerning both D C and B J, you have calmed me,so thank you.
Much love
June xx

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