The following is the nicest email I have received all week. It is a barometer of where I currently stand.
‘Dear Liz Jones. We hope you are enjoying your HP Instant Ink service.’
You see? That was lovely, wasn’t it? Almost better than having a boyfriend! Nothing combative or chippy.
‘Sorry about the group email,’ my ex wrote back to me. ‘Tell me your new postcode.’
‘No. I love David.’
He clearly doesn’t believe me, because he then typed: ‘I can pop in on my way south, make sure you are OK.’
That would be a first. No one cares if I’m OK. They only care about themselves. How I impact on them.
‘I am not a service station. Try Scotch Corner.’
I don’t want my ex to ‘stop off’. There is nowhere in North Yorkshire to get an extreme bikini wax. I think people up here think it is as bad as fracking; you simply go too deep. Plus, I can’t be bothered. Plus, I love David. I have loved him for more than 30 years. It was love at first sight. Plus, he has my cats. I don’t need my ex muddying the waters.
I wonder if this is how men feel after a divorce, when their wives take custody of the children. The only reason I took my cats to David’s was because I trusted him – that he would look after them. I would take them food and medicine, until I could get back on my feet and get them back.
I wonder, given David’s silence, if he really appreciates what my cats mean to me. Susie, who I got as a kitten from the Celia Hammond Animal Trust, was so feral, born on the streets of the Isle of Dogs, it took weeks for her even to emerge from hiding behind books on a shelf. She was full of worms, starving, terrified; I still can’t pick her up. Sweetie, who was so badly abused as a kitten her teeth were knocked out or chipped. Minstrel, who is so feisty his owner was advised to give him up because the last time he was bitten he landed in hospital.
Susie was one of the reasons I left London. She had gone missing for nearly two weeks. I had posted flyers all over Islington and fallen prey to people who phoned me saying they had my cat, demanding money. I finally heard her, very late one night, in a neighbour’s garage. I knocked on the owner’s door and said, ‘My cat is trapped in your garage, can you open it?’ He refused, until I told him if he didn’t open it I would break in or call the cops. I had thought Susie would be safe when I moved her to Somerset; I hadn’t factored in that I might lose my home and have to take her to David’s.
So I am wondering what to do. I asked Nic, ‘Are you friends with David on Facebook? Could you spy on him?’
‘No, sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m not 12.’
I considered hacking into his email but thought that might mean Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant would come after me, citing abuse by the press. What woman, seriously, has never looked at her partner’s email or furtively read his texts while he was outside smoking? I figure I am just going to have to go round to his flat and do a stakeout.
Another email from my ex. ‘New Year would have been much more fun with you here. None of these women have any sense of humour. It’s such a shame your column seems to stop you having a nice life. It ruined us. It seems to have alienated your family. And Whatshisname. Without the column, he’d have been putty in your hand.’ He’s right, of course. I can’t think why David didn’t just ignore what I write, as I ignored my husband’s kiss-and-tell in a weekly magazine.
I tell him my column might have alienated my sister but it paid for a roof over her head for
many years; you can’t have it both ways. I tell him he can’t come to my house but that I will meet him at Middleton Lodge, a country house hotel that has banned me from having any more beauty treatments (I am too ‘intimidating’, apparently), but which does great vegan food and allows dogs inside.
‘Great,’ he replied, a little too quickly. ‘I will book a table and a room.’ I will have dinner but I am not going to his room.