Image courtesy of Elsie Bell_Art
Have you ever strolled down a street and wondered what goes on behind the net curtains and closed doors of the resident’s houses?
Well, we invite you to join us as we glimpse inside this fictional street, with its back to back houses and secret entries, and introduce you to the ordinary and extraordinary people who live there.
I love Thursdays, Deirdre, the Missus, goes to her pottery class and I get a rest from the constant nagging and moans. Oh, she still leaves me a list of jobs to do, fix that; mend this. But for two and a half blissful hours, I get a break from her whining irritating voice.
She’s always harping on about trivial things; not slicing the bread straight, leaving a light on or dribbling the odd spot of piddle on her toilet mat. I told her, you try aiming with a dodgy prostrate. I have to wait hours for anything to come out and when it does, it has a mind of its own.
I’ve taken to locking myself in my shed with Radio 4, planning her demise and reading a copy of ‘Wood-turning monthly’.
I didn’t think I was a jealous man but Gerry from the ‘Man Shed project’ has just got himself a girl from Russia, lovely she is. Blonde hair, all her own teeth and she keeps a clean house. She’s a bit younger than him but they get on like a house on fire. He brings in a decent wage as a landscape gardener and she warms his slippers and picks out the soil particles from under his nails.
He’s always raving about what a good chef she is as well, although he did mention that his piss had turned purple from all the beetroot.
And if that’s not enough, turns out she’s also good at massage, and I know this because she offered to sort out my shoulders with some ointment she’d brought over with her. It was bloody miraculous, cleared up the pain a treat and those hands of hers, nothing like Deirdre’s gnarled claws.
Not that the Mrs would ever massage anything of mine anyway. No, that all stopped when I lost my job at the council. She was happy enough to take the compensation money but defrosting that fridge of a woman was way beyond my humble capabilities.
I suppose you’d think, after twenty-five years, I’d have been used to it, but if truth be told the more time went on, the more discontent I felt.
I don’t know if it was seeing the spring in Gerry’s step and dreaming of a young woman warming my slippers, or whether it was because I felt like I was dying inside, but things just started spiralling into the abyss.
I’d been having dark thoughts for weeks. Every time she bent over to empty the dishwasher or hand vacuum the carpet on the stairs.
Gerry said, he totally got it because his ex-wife had been the same. He even said he’d help organise a Skype with one of Ivanka’s friends.
I was a bit dubious at first, well you hear tales about this sort of thing don’t you, but after a few days I thought, what have I got to lose?
I told him I didn’t want some ‘slip of a lass’, I wanted a proper woman, someone on my wavelength, interested in exercise, walking and if possible someone who liked to handle a bit of wood.
Shared interests, that’s got to be the way forward hasn’t it? My thinking was, if she could handle an Axminster turning lathe, we could be on to a winner.
And that, as they say, is how I met Nikita: thirty-nine, red-head, a trained nurse and an artisan carver. She had a slightly wonky right eye, from a splinter of rogue elm, but I thought the patch was rather becoming.
I’d started talking to her online, sometimes late at night but mostly when Deirdre went to one of her group things. Her English was perfect and we had some smashing conversations about linseed, rasps and coping saws.
She was everything Deirdre wasn’t. Kind, considerate, creative and attentive.
All those years I had to endure her public put-downs and humiliations, preventing me from doing things which I used to love and enjoy.
Nikita made me realise what my life had been missing, so the decision to leave, just became a case of timing and logistics. I would be free from the evil manipulative cow forever.
I didn’t have to wait long, it was only a few days after I’d made my mind up, that Deirdre flounced in and announced that we were joining a salsa dancing class. She didn’t ask me whether I fancied it or gave any consideration to the fact that I had two left feet and hated dancing. NO! She said she wasn’t taking no for an answer and that was that.
I was all flummoxed at first. Partly because I wanted to object but partly because I’d been Skyping Nikita and so had to slam down the laptop lid.
It had been a particularly heated experience too. We’d been sharing a bit of Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ whilst she planed a door down, in just her bra and knickers. It was so comforting that we shared this love of nineteenth-century classical music.
So that was it. I felt the catalyst ignite. I realised in that split second, that I was going to stand this no longer. I didn’t even recognise myself anymore. For years, she’d been moulding me into her idea of a husband and daft bugger that I am, I’d let her do it. She’d crushed every bit of the Geoff Baker, I used to be.
She’s always been like a bull terrier with a pork chop, when she sets her mind to something. There’s never been any point arguing with her. I’ve learnt that over the years.
Oh, I suppose I could have just told her to fuck off there and then and announce that I was off to Russia to be with Nikita, but some twisted part of me wanted to make a more public stand against her.
I wanted her to feel at least some of the humiliation she made me feel on a regular basis. I drew the line at a frilly shirt though.
When she rocked down the stairs looking like an oversized piñata, I knew I was making the right decision, Lord knows where she got her outfit from, but suffice to say she might be needing new curtains in the back bedroom.
There was going to be a lot of our friends there, it seems they’d got roped into it as well. As I said, she can be very persuasive.
You could hear the South American music as we pulled up onto the car park. A heady mixture of Spanish guitar and snare drum. It took me right back to the summer of ’78. It’s strange how music can do that isn’t it? I was so different back then, full of life and optimism. Like I feel when I talk to Nikita.
The place was heaving when we got inside, full of Deirdre’s people, the whole hideous bunch of them. A perfect audience.
I bided my time, waiting until the opportune moment, and it came as I was heaving a large lady with a facial mole into a reverse embrace. I suppose I should have waited for the break but I got a sudden burst of confidence so I let go of Busty Bertha and jumped on to the stage, snatching the dance teacher’s radio mike off his head and holding it to my mouth.
And then it all came flooding out…
I think most of you know me, I said, and know that woman over there is my wife Deirdre. I didn’t want to come tonight but Deirdre insisted I did. You see, Deirdre insists that I do everything she says. She buys my clothes, tells me what I should eat, tells me where we are going on holiday.
My wife has publicly humiliated me on numerous occasions and I’ve just smiled through it. She’s turned me into a man that I don’t recognise anymore and I don’t even like him.
So now it’s my turn. Deirdre. I hate you. I have probably hated you for twenty-four of our miserable twenty-five years of marriage. I hate your face, I hate your voice and I hate you.
I could see she was giving me one of her looks but I was on a roll.
So I wanted to tell you, I said, in front of all your friends, that I’m leaving you and yes I have met someone else. She’s a beautiful Russian called Nikita and she can build her own cabinets.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve emptied the savings and the bank accounts, after all I earned it all, and I’ve told the housing association that I’m moving out.
Years, I’ve envied the lives of those people who had happy marriages, a sex life and someone who loves them to come home to, well now I’m going to be one of those people.
I could see Deirdre, out of the corner of my eye but I walked right past her.
As you can imagine, everyone just stood there open-mouthed. Watching me jump off the stage and march out of the centre.
I’d already packed my bags and left them in the garage at home where she wouldn’t find them, so I had no need to hang around and wait for the repercussions. My midnight flight to Pulkova airport wasn’t going to hang about, just this last tube journey to Heathrow and I have my whole new life ahead of me.
Jules Garvey Welch for Pf Magazine