Single

I haven’t posted anything on here for a while, there are two reasons really, the first being that my work blocked WordPress which stopped me looking and making contributions during the quiet times and my lunch break (fair comment you might add) and the second is that 6 months ago on April 24th 2014 my wife left me.  My wife who I met in 2006, married in Venice in 2009, took her own son and left me here at home with my own son.

It has been the worst 6 months of my life.  Awful.  Dreadful.  Depressing.  Grievous.

This was my second wife.  People who know me might wonder at the last statement because in 2004 my first wife died of cancer.  You might think it would be twice as awful to lose a loved one through death than from someone walking out on you.  This may be the case for many people and my statement is no disrespect to my first wife or to discount what we both went through but this has altogether been for me personally the worse experience.  My first wife, the mother of my son was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2001 just 3 months after we bought our home together and our son was 2 years and 3 months old. She died in August 2004 just 3 days before her 40th birthday.  In spite of everything, we knew this was going to happen.  After it did happen I was surrounded by family and friends – we all supported each other, shared our grief and love for her, our reminiscences and recollections.  I went for 2 four hour sessions of counselling which practically removed my grief, started a new job, saw my son off to school for the first time, received some form of closure from the funeral and took on all the responsibility of bringing up a very young child who was practically 100% dependent upon me.

Two years later I met C.  We went to Rome, Florence, trips here there and everywhere, took family holidays with our 2 boys who had just 6 weeks between their birthdays and when I proposed with a ring in October 2007 she said yes and we married in Venice in May 2009 at which point she moved in with me permanently for the first time.  There is no doubt we experienced some ups and downs for the first couple of years of our marriage but over time our relationship grew organically, we enjoyed some great holidays, outings together, city breaks and trips.  We enjoyed each other’s company, were one of the few couples I knew who went for evening walks together hand in hand and overall were a picture of happiness with a visibly strong connection.  Initially, C had a 3 day a week job but had social work degree in child protection and was offered a job to pursue a career in this field.  I offered her every encouragement to take the job but one thing she said to me from her roll as an intern was that the office was littered with divorcees due to people unable to deal with the stress of the job at home and it had a devastating affect on many couples – a bit like being married to a cop, she said.  I felt our love was strong enough to cope with anything and she took the job.

C’s job was tough, there was no doubt about that and she rarely spoke about it at home.  Sometimes we had blazing rows – usually after drinking but over time we checked this to the point that after about mid 2012 we completely stopped having arguments (fights) and had really got to know each other and how to avoid those trigger points or push the buttons which would cause the other to react or if they were pressed the other would shrug and we would avoid any sort of confrontation.  The following year, 2013, was our best.  We did so much together, had an amazing trip to Berlin for my 50th, she bought me a £6K Rolex (there was a ‘hiccup’ involved here but it didn’t spoil things), went to Grillstock, hiked Rivington Pike and drank wine by the lake, had our best holiday to date during 10 days in Benalmadena, Spain and many many other things which really seemed to cement our marriage.  I was happy, she was happy, the boys were happy…what could possibly go wrong?

Up to this point, C, who had come from a home where there appeared little love, especially towards her, used to say to me that I was all she’d got.  Her mother died a few years ago, her dad walked out many years ago and her brother worked abroad. We did practically everything together and it was great.  We even had gym memberships together but after April 2013 we cancelled our gym memberships and I joined the YMCA gym because they had a great yoga class and C began going to a new exercise class called Crossfit.  Neither of us had a problem with this, it seemed quite normal.  Then in October 2013 my son was invited to have trials with Blackpool Football Club.  This meant me taking him for training on Tuesday evenings and Friday evenings, with matches on Sunday mornings then straight to another match on Sunday afternoon for his other football team he was still affiliated to.  C would go to her Crossfit class on Thursday evenings, visit her aunt on Wednesday evenings and also go to Crossfit classes on Saturday mornings.  All of a sudden this times of the week when we would bond as a married couple – especially Friday evenings when we would previously relax with a bottle of wine and I would usually cook something from a recipe cook and we would make a bit of an evening of things.  On Saturday mornings we would often lie-in, do what married couples do, watch TV in bed and spend the rest of the day together.  And then on Sunday I would be up at about 7.30am to go to a football match with my son and not be home until about 5pm.  Furthermore, C began making new friends through her Crossfit class, which was fine by me and also going on nights out with them and as Christmas got nearer she went to a few parties – all fine with me, I trusted her without hesitation.

Then in December 2013, something changed.  C suddenly became distant, was spending far more time on her phone, texting or messaging than she ever had done before.  On December 19th we took the day off together and went out for her birthday but it wasn’t quite the same (whisper it, no sex either).  As usual at Christmas C was magnificent, she really made Christmas a wonderful experience but this time in 2013 the magic was missing and again she was messaging a lot and when I asked her about this she said it was her new (girl)friend S she met at Crossfit.  But Christmas came and went (shhhh…no sex) and over the next few months things between us really stagnated.  It was confusing especially on the back of our wonderful year in 2013 prior to December and most of 2012 but the spark in our relationship felt like it had been extinguished.

I asked C if she was seeing someone else, which she denied, at one point she said she had had a massive fall out with her brother but didn’t want to talk about it.  I knew her job was stressful and tried to support her and smother her in love but this was not reciprocated.  In February after a rather mute Valentines day she told me the reason for all this was that last October her brother had left her with £6,000 worth of debt and a bailiff had visited our house to claim it, had knocked on neighbours’s doors trying to find her and she had had to find this £6K immediately or they threatened to take her car. For the first time in over 18 months I really lost my temper over this because as I said to her, had she called me I would have dropped everything to be by her side and I said she should not have paid them.  For the first time in nearly two years I really lost my temper with her and on the back of all the frustration and hurt over the past 3 months I said some hurtful things to her.  Unfortunately, after this point things deteriorated further between us.  C barely spoke to me, she was going out more frequently, returning home late from work, all affection towards me dried up, it got pretty awful and nothing I could do seemed to snap her out of it.  She also started changing her habits, drinking red wine (she always preferred white) and started flaunting her material wealth on Instagram and Twitter as if she was searching for favour especially with her young friend S who she met at Crossfit.

On Saturday April 11th, C said she was going to Preston for a night out with a girlfriend.  She got ready and looked gorgeous and I gave her a lift to the train station.  She was actually quite friendly this evening and said she expected to get the last train home which would get in after 11.  In the end she arrived home in the early hours of the morning but she snuggled up to me in bed like she hadn’t done in many months and it was actually very nice.  I woke up early at about 8 am to make a cup of tea.  C stirred and asked me where I was going and she asked for a cup of tea too.  When I was downstairs brewing up she suddenly appeared frantically searching for her phone which she couldn’t find.  I felt this was unlike her but she found her phone and when I went upstairs she was back in bed and the phone was plugged in on charge, screen down.  I sat in bed drinking my tea while C continued to sleep.  I finished my tea and felt awake so decided to go downstairs so as not to disturb her.  Then I saw the phone again and I wondered.  I picked it up, turned it over and saw 3 messages on the screen.  The first read something like, “morning babe, how are you feeling?  Love Rog xxx”.  The next one read something like, “guess you must still be sleeping, speak soon.  Love Rog xxx”.  And the last read, “Love you babe, Rog xxx”.  I exploded.  Every fear that I had felt since December seemed to be held right  there in my hand and her attitude and approach towards me which had been so hurtful and so confusing suddenly felt clear.  In no uncertain terms I told her to get out the house.  She said it was not as it seemed.

We avoided each other for the rest of the day and when I went to bed that night she was already in bed.  I ripped the duvet off her and she was curled up sobbing I told her to get out my bed and she went downstairs and slept on the sofa.  The next day I went to work and told a trusted friend that I had discovered that C was having an affair.  She was shocked but said to me, “don’t allow pride to get in the way of a beautiful marriage”.  I was not in the mood for compromise and at lunch time I went to an estate agent and picked up the local property paper which I left in a prominent position for her.  By Wednesday it became clear that C had been actively looking for somewhere to move to and the enormity of her leaving and the implication began to hit home.  That evening after she returned home from her aunt’s I went downstairs to her and asked her, “why did you do it?”.  She said she hadn’t and said the texts were just ‘banter’ with a friend.  I asked her to swear on her son’s life that she was not having an affair.  She would not swear on her son’s life but she swore on her brother’s life that she was not having an affair even though she did not look me in the eye when she said it.  Without saying anything I went upstairs to bed.

In the morning I went downstairs and said to C I did not want her to leave, I believed her and I said in spite of our difficulties over the past 4 months I wanted to work with her to heal our marriage and make it work again.  She said she had practically completed on a flat so I asked her not to do it.  I went to work (C was off work) and at about 10am I sent her a text and she replied that she had paid a deposit on a flat.  I could not believe it and drove straight home.  I repeated that now I knew the ‘truth’ I did not want her to leave and asked her to stay. Eventually I went back to work.  The next few days were horrible because I could not tell if she was staying or leaving but suddenly her attitude changed and she really exerted her power over me in this situation where I felt especially vulnerable.  I begged her, I pleaded, I did everything I could to ask her not to leave but she told me she was leaving.  She needed her space as she was finding life difficult with me in our house (my first wife’s house with me) and she needed to explore her feelings, maybe take mediation and see how things went.  On 24th April 2014 she left and moved to a 2 bedroom flat with her son a 5 minute drive from me.

For days I sent her text messages, I sent her a huge email but I cried and I cried and I cried, inconsolably.  The shock was devastating.  But I wanted her to come home.  6  weeks later she told me she was not coming home and she asked me for the Rolex back to pay off the finance.  Following this communication from her was bitter and resentful towards me and because I was so vulnerable and felt to desperate I pleaded with her to come back and repeatedly expressed my love to her.  Last month I discovered that she was leaving her flat and moving into a social housing property with a guy called…Roger (yes, Roger…Rog!).  To say this was a shock would be a gross understatement.  I sank into a pit of depression to realise that I had been deceived all along and within 5 months of leaving me she was moving in with this other man who had clearly sent those original messages but she had denied anything was going on with.  And now she is living with him, I do not wish them well.

That is pretty much how our marriage has gone from the sublime to…the ridiculous in less than a year.  I have remained shocked and confused how C could do this without any attempt to try and save our marriage and relationship which by November 2013 seemed to be out of this world followed by an utter train crash.  All I know is that C divorced from her 1st husband after she told me she had an affair with a married man, left the partner she had her son with because she said she got bored.  She left me after I began helping me son pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer and now by the age of 43 she is living with her 4th partner…while still married to me.

Of course, there are 2 sides to every story and I am sure C would put a different point of view.  I sometimes wish I still hated her which is how I felt after I saw those messages but I fell back in love with her and in spite of everything I still love her and 6 months later cannot fall out of love with her.  A fiend who never met C came across my photographs on Facebook of us together and without knowing how we came to part said between us we must find forgiveness because the photos show such a connection between us.  I agree.  C might do but doesn’t see it any more.  And there is nothing I can do about it.

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Insert Images Four Ways (Now with 100% More Getty!)

lazybill:

Simply for future reference

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

We talk a lot about photography and working with images. Today, let’s take a break from honing the photographer’s craft to review  your choices for getting images into posts and pages.

Lots of you are familiar with uploading images to your Media Manager, but there are several other options: you can add images that live on another site, embed images from sites like Instagram (and starting today, Getty Images), or use shortcodes to embed a variety of media. Here’s the rundown:

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Daily Prompt: We Got The Beat

I cannot confess to being the most prolific of bloggers; ever since my employer blocked logging into WordPress my output has practically dried up.  However, I have a day off today with not much organised and I was intrigued by the Daily Prompt post entitled ‘We Got The Beat’ (I’m sure there will be a way of putting a link to that blog here but I have yet to discover how to include it). The post invites bloggers to share their experiences of being in a band, amongst other suggestions, but it was the being in a band aspect which caught my attention and offered me something to do post gym. I was in a band…

As a kid, I could never play a musical instrument although I did fancy myself as a drummer should the opportunity ever present itself to me to actually sit behind a kit and give it a whack. My music taste in my teens rarely ventured further than Rock and the first band I ever went to see was British Rock band UFO at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1978.  in the years to come I would see a multitude of live bands but while most of my peers would handle air guitars I had the knack of being able to switch effortlessly from air guitar to air drum kit whenever a particular fill was required. It was about this time that some fiends and I got together with the intention of forming a band. A couple of mates had acoustic guitars, another had an electric base with an amplifier and I had a dream of playing the drums. The others hooked up primitive pick-ups to their guitars and I began with an up turned wicker basket, a biscuit tin and a couple of wooden spoons as we convened in Rick Gaskell’s bedroom and wrote our first song; Dead Dog – about Tim Farrel’s greyhound. While still at school, another guy in our year suddenly decided he was a fan of Elvis Presley and did as much as he could to look like a 1950s version of him and sing like him. He had got a gig at the annual school Rugby Show and needed a backing band and we were the only potential ‘musicians’ he could call on. At this point it was all systems go as the guitarists went out and bought the best electric guitars they could afford (Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster copies) and I borrowed the school drum kit as the music teacher allowed us to rehearse in the school music room room (in exchange for me attending his weekly Christian Union meetings!) This offered me my first chance to sit behind a drum kit and as you can imagine I beat the living Daylights out of it. Rehearsals continued and we practised 4 Elvis classics for our 10 minute slot which were: Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear and Hound Dog. The Rugby Show was a 3 night show of performances by each school year predominantly by members of the school rugby teams, although none of us by this time played any rugby. I can vividly remember these 3 ‘gigs’ and just how well they were received. Teaching staff stood at the side of the stage to watch us and people in the audience actually got up out of their chairs and danced. It was quite amazing and our singer, Gary Slack, was a great showman. For the next couple of years we increased our repertoire of songs, mostly 50s rock n roll as we added songs by the likes of Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry amongst others as well as writing a few of our own songs and I had bought my first drum kit for £30 off a guy I met working for a local rose grower and horticulturalist. By now we had a name as we became Gary Slack And The Wild Turtles, or if Gary was feeling particularly empowered he would become Garfield Tremayne. Playing music was a lot of fun and I loved it and we began to develop a bit of a name for ourselves until one day we were invited to a local recording studio in Nottingham called Sin City to cut a demo tape. This whole experience would turn out to be the end of the band as our cheap equipment was shown up for what it was in the sound-proofed environs of the recording studio and although Gary was kept on by the studio the rest of us were unceremoniously dumped.

So we were left with the nucleus of a band but no singer and we all still wanted to carry on. Tim, who had been kicked out of the Wild Turtles in a power struggle with Gary rejoined Phil, Richard and me and we recruited Dave ‘Feathertouch’ Stocker to play drums and I took over the vocals. I could sing a bit and I still do a bit of Karaoke to this day but I wouldn’t get past the first stage of auditions on X Factor even in those days!  We decided to go ‘Rock’ and picked the name Abattoir (seriously) as we learned a number of standard rock songs. We did a couple of school gigs with a set list that included songs such as Smoke on The Water (of course), Status Quo’s Big Fat Mamma (now that was a struggle to sing!), and a few songs mostly written by me and Tim with titles like Suicide, Come On And Get a Down On Me (blush) and Over The Top 1916.  Well, we were naive teenagers at the time!  In some quarters we went down quite well but we were invited to play a couple of gigs, one on an exchange visit to a small French town called Feignies where we blew the electricity as soon as we turned the equipment on and for a charity gig at The Nottingham Royal Concert Hall where I still have memories of the first 3 rows of old age pensioners with their fingers in their ears as we belted out Smoke On The water…oh well.  They were good times and for a  few happy years music dominated my life…more so even than football and I still say now looking back that I would have been quite content to be a drummer in a band living out the back of a van eking out a living.  But I didn’t follow my dream and due largely to parental pressure I settled for a life of what has been for the most part, taken up by dull office jobs, alas. 

I don’t really see any of the guys in the band any more.  Richard, sadly, died in a skiing accident – he was the real musician amongst us, Phil Wright went off to university with his electric guitar and still no doubt knocks out Status Quo riffs from time to time.  Tim, or Tom as I nick-named him, quit university and grew a beard and was last thought to be gutting fish in Holland and I never really know what happened to Dave.  Gary became front of house manager of the The Nottingham Playhouse Theatre and was last known to be making books for deaf people – or something similarly worthwhile.  He never did quite make it to Vegas but although not actually an Elvis impersonator, as they go he was a good one.  Good times and when I think the last time I sat behind a drum kit was 1983 it just shows how long ago it all was – unless you count playing Rock Band on the PS3!

The Food Of Lebanon 2

Sorry I haven’t posted anything for so long, that’s the topic for another entry.  But I’ve still been cooking regularly and here’s what I made for C & me last night. Another great dish from Salma Hage’s The Lebanese Kitchen, published by the wonderful Phaidon, it’s Koftas With Tomatoe Sauce And Potatoes. 

It seems that all countries have their own version of meatballs but these Koftas made with lamb, onions, garlic, parsley and mint (amongst other items) had a particularly middle eastern flavour.  The recipe called for seven spice season but I used some Ras El Hanout instead which is Moroccan but pretty similar, I imagine.   And here it is…straight out of the oven and on the plate. I still score low on presentation but it tasted great, especially when I had the leftovers for lunch today!

Food Of India

The phrase ‘celebrity chef’ is one that has become firmly established in describing that breed of national treasure renowned for being great at cooking, owning a string of restaurants (usually in the South of England) and having a personality suited to the multi-tasking requirements of being able to engage a TV audience in bon homie while creating a mouth-watering dish against a backdrop of rolling hills, lolling lagoons or a sweeping moutainscape. The current trend for well known chefs and restauranteurs to travel the globe while sampling the local cuisine and then conjuring up their own representations of the same food which might also appeal to the English palette began in the 1980s with the seminal series Floyd On France where the late Keith Floyd travelled seemingly haphazardly through the French landscape begging, stealing and borrowing, as he put it, kitchens and kitchen equipment and this style of ‘on the road’ cooking captured the imagination of the British Public who enjoyed the mix of food, travel and personality as millions tuned into the series and the accompanying book sold in bucketloads. Since then, other chefs have continued the trend as they seemingly attempt to outdo each other in visiting more and more out of the way and off the beaten track places to find the sort of food which would appeal to our travel and food lust; Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein being the most adventurous in traveling the world with seemingly nothing more than a collection of shirts, hats and TV crew.

The formula shows no sign of abating. About 6 weeks ago, Rick Stein’s new book, Rick Stein’s India appeared on our bookshelves without fanfare and caused some murmuring as to where was the accompanying TV series. Then, 3 weeks ago the first episode of the series of the same name began on BBC2 with Rick beginning his latest Odyssey in a region of the sub-continent seeing him visiting back streets and slums in search of the perfect curry. Apart from the great food we see being cooked in back street kitchens one of the main talking points is Ricks perspiration which sees him bedecked in long-sleeved Ralph Lauren linen shirts which at certain points of the episodes look as if he’s just been caught in a flash monsoon but the drying air has yet to reach his back and arm-pits. Nevertheless, the series is engaging and the food he discovers and cooks himself looks amazing. The enduring popularity of the travelling TV celebrity chef is evinced by the immediate disappearance following the first episode (and to this day) of Rick Stein’s accompanying book from our local book shop shelves. Luckily C managed to track down and buy a copy last weekend to add further filler to our already overflowing shelves of cokkery books and writing.

Here’s Rick, the genial restaurateur on the cover of his latest book who made his name with his famous seafood restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall and his subsequent TV series extolling his passion for fish and seafood.

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It’s a great series too; part food programme, part travel programme and Rick definitely strays off the beaten path, usually finding a local English speaking guide and then tramping his way through the slums of India which, we learn are home to many of the city elite who choose to live relatively cheaply in a shack where they can be close to their job rather than pay exorbitant local city centre property prices. It all reminds me of Vikram Seth’s amazing novel A Suitable Boy which took me a year to read and describes life in post war India for all classes and castes.

So to the recipes…we chose as our initial effort a squid curry and ended up buying frozen squid tubes from a fish monger (it was all he had) whereas we could’ve bought the fresh stuff from a supermarket had we visited there first. Rick clearly likes his chillies so we made the paste with 2 red ones and the sauce with 3 green ones making it pretty hot. We bought fresh coconut and I used a hammer to get to the flesh which needed to be grated into the dish. I have packets and jars of whole spices which in some cases I’ve had for years but they still have their individual aromas so in went cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, mustard seed, funugreek, cumin and garam masala. It was hot, spicy and sweet but overall delicious. I would have preferred to use fresh squid but the result was still excellent, served with steamed basmati rice.

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Food Of Lebanon

There is something always particularly exciting about the discovery of a new region to draw your cooking from and so in recent weeks I have been on a culinary journey which began approximately 12 months ago in Spain, crossed the strait of Gibraltar to Morocco and leapfrogged its way into Lebanon. Of course, the journey does not see me wander much further than my kitchen and dining table but thanks to anecdotal comments many enlightened cookery writers place alongside their recipes cooking a meal can be the equivalent of a cultural experience to bring the tastes and flavours of a middle eastern market street food outlet into your own living room.

The Lebanese Kitchen by Selma Hage is a cookbook published by the wonderful Phaidon which is enhanced by the unusual way they have cut zig-zags into the edges of each of the 260 odd leaves which make the pages of this wonderful book of recipes.

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I have already cooked a few recipes from the book but this weekend saw us go truly Lebanese crazy as we drew on it for both our Friday and Saturday night meals. Friday saw us opting for Mother’s Milk with lamb; a fairly simple recipe of minced lamb cooked in a sauce made of yogurt, water and cornflour with lots of garlic thrown in for pungency and mint for sweetness. Mixed with rice, the meal was a riot of flavour with the flavour of the lamb buttressed by the tart acid of the yogurt. This was one of those meals where every flavour played its part as the meat, garlic, yogurt and mint vied for position to come out tops but overall it was a tie with all four flavours crossing the line in dead heat.

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I confess, it has a look of porridge about it but I can assure you it tasted wonderful served with slices of grilled aubergine (egg plant).

So successful was Friday night’s dish that we stayed in Lebanon for a further night opting for a fish dish of fried cod with caramalized onions and rice. We nipped out in the afternoon to buy the fish and elected to buy an alternative white fish instead and chose pouting, not least because it was substantially cheaper than the cod and no doubt more sustainable too.

The dish required the slow cooking of two thinly sliced onions with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar until it was practically caramalized which was then mixed with cooked basmati rice. A sauce was made out of capers, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice and parsley which was spooned over the pan-fried pouting fillets sitting on the caramalized onion and rice mix. This was the first time we had tried pouting and although not as strong in flavour as cod, it’s delicacy was enhanced by the sweet sauces of top and below. We also threw in a handful of broad beans which gave it a bit of additional colour.

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I think we’ll stick around in Lebanon format least another week or two and perhaps hop over to Morocco to give the tagine a run out in between but now we’ve discovered the flavours of Lebanese cooking I suspect it will become a region that we shall visit, at least culinarily, quite often!