This is not about the neon pink techtonik dancing elephant. The elephant dances on, and we are sort of existing peacefully, if unsustainably, in parallel. This is just about cohabitation. The daily grind of cohabiting with another human being who doesn't share your view on the correct temperature for soup, or beds, or the proper way of hanging washing. And the dark thoughts that come as you untangle the wet mass of mildewed clothes on the racks or shut the front door properly for the eight thousandth time. Dark, dark thoughts..
Isn't it HARD? Are we sure it's a good idea? Wouldn't separate apartments, à la Tim Burton/Helena Bonham Carter, be a better plan? I don't think the CFO and I do too badly at mutual tolerance, after 15 years, but I'm still terribly bad at living with another human being most of the time. It's not the big stuff - even though our body clocks are entirely incompatible and I would rather remove all my limbs from my body with a Jane Asher cake crimping tool than spend a minute watching the news on TF1 with the nonsensically named 'Laurence Ferrari' and he can't BELIEVE anyone could spend so much money on books. No, it's the tiny drip of repetitive acts of minor irritation that are the killer.
Here's your arsenic, dear. And your weedkiller biscuit. I've throttled your parakeet.
I know exactly the ways in which I make him long for strychnine. I:- Leave the light in the loo on. All the time. It's a mental block, I just can't switch it off. Leave all the lights on, actually.
- Lose my keys repeatedly in stranger and stranger ways. Never have them when it is time to leave the house, ever.
- Wipe surfaces with anything I can find, including socks and jumpers.
- Demand more and more animals and then get bored with them.
- Insist on having a hot water bottle until May.
- Leave the butter out to go soft and sweaty and disturbing.
- Eat with my fingers.
- Run in the opposite direction when the phone rings and refuse to answer it.
- Cannot deal with any paperwork until it has marinated for at least 2 months. Preferably nearer six. Even if the paperwork in question is capable of generating actual cash money if dealt with.
- Wear clothes as pyjamas, then pyjamas as clothes in an infernal cycle only broken by going to work occasionally (and not always then).
- Keep my money and cards and tram pass in a sort of rough bundle that I transfer from pocket to pocket, shedding €50 notes and credit cards as I do.
- Grind my teeth endlessly.
Sly and silent, he foxes into his chemist's den and there, in a hiss and prussic circle of cauldrons and phials brimful with pox and the Black Death, cooks up a fricassee of deadly nightshade, nicotine, hot frog, cyanide and bat-spit for his needling stalactite hag and bednag of a pokerbacked nutcracker wife.
I roll my eyeballs 360° in my skull and dream of spiking his crisps with Marmite when he:
- Says "bouge pas" when he means "bouge". If I am standing in front of the dishwasher and you want me to move, don't say "don't move". Duh.
- Is unable to tolerate the fridge door being open for more than a hundredth of a second without twitching. Onoes! The evil will enter the fridge and destroy us all!
- Cruelly pops all balloons the instant the spawn go to bed in the manner of a balloon terminator;
- Sighs "d'accord" in a narky and put upon manner when I ask nicely for a cup of tea;
- Eats maquereau au vin blanc (a rebarbative concotion of pure vinegar and fishiness) straight from the tin when he gets drunk.
- Puts the butter in the fridge to get hard and horrible, along with the tomatoes and avocados.
- Stomps out of the house prematurely and with empty hands when we go out, and then stands fulminating as I scrabble around, collecting up all the things we need to take.
- Cannot stand bedtime to slip more than a second, or his eyes start popping and he starts barking orders.
- Closes the blinds in the kitchen so we have to sit in sepulchral semi-darkness, even in the middle of the day.
I know it's important that we should co-exist, and get our corners knocked off, and become less wedded to our obsessive routines. I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. I even had two children in rapid succession so the first one wouldn't end up a with my own imperious tendencies. But even so, I often I find myself stroking Lives of the Great Poisoners, thoughtfully.
What are your most irritating trivial habits? What can't you bear that your co-habitee does without fail? And please, noone try and tell me to be more forgiving and better at compromise, because my heart is black and sulphurous and my soul is selfish.
(*Title and italic portions from Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas)