Now that we are officially engaged, and with David wanting to talk things through in person, I suggested meeting at the organic pub in Islington: my old haunt in happier days (why isn’t the stupid woman happy now? I can hear you ask), and where we had our first proper date.
I was waiting for him at a table with the three collies. I’d just tried to walk them on Highbury Fields, as I’d been to view a flat, but to my horror discovered all the parkland enclosed by railings is now a No Dog Zone, with a fine of £80 if you dare to take a dog inside. So. Back to the drawing board.
David turned up, in double denim, and started staring at me.
‘Show me the ring!’ So I did. We ordered.
After my raw cauliflower salad, I broached the subject. ‘Where would we get married?’
‘Somewhere small. I don’t want to invite anyone.’
‘But what about your son and his wife? And your best friend and his wife?’
‘OK,’ he said. ‘Four guests each. Somewhere in North Yorkshire?’
‘No!’ I said. ‘How about The Pig hotel in Cornwall?’
‘Isn’t Cornwall a bit far?’ This is someone who drove to France for a party.
‘No! But everyone would have to pay their own way: I’m not making that mistake again.’
‘OK.’ Then he said, ‘I still have the Save the Date cards from last time I asked you to marry me. We could just cross out the date with a pen.’ I am not wholly sure he was joking.
Then I asked him, ‘Where would we live?’
Him: ‘Well, you won’t want me living with you in the Dales, will you?’
Me: ‘No. I don’t think I could stand it, being the only entertainment on offer for 250 miles. And remember, you have a cat, and Gracie is not safe around cats. The cottage is too small to be able to keep them apart. I would constantly be anxious.’
Him: ‘Well, what about if you get a flat in London? I could move there.’
I had visions of getting to London after a six-hour drive to find a dirty litter tray and laundry everywhere; he’s a bit Greta Thunberg about tumble dryers. There are so many stiff pairs of Levi’s on radiators, his flat is like the bottom half of a Van der Graaf Generator concert, circa 1971.
‘But you said you’d never give up your flat,’ I said.
‘I’d be nervous, as I’ve been made homeless before, and what if it all goes wrong? But I think I’d be willing to give it up. Then I could help with the rent.’
That was a first. That he’d give up his flat.
We finished dinner. I got the bill (over £100! For raw cauliflower!), and we drove south of the river. I unloaded the puppies and my bag and went into the bathroom to lay out my cosmetics and creams and brushes as I always do: as if I am about to perform open heart surgery. No light. Then I went into the kitchen to pour myself some wine. No light. Then I noticed, on the counter, the empty pouches of dog food from when I had fed the puppies over a week ago. God, when I think of all the hoops I jump through when he comes to stay with me!
‘David? Why did you not throw these in the bin?’
And then he said something strange. ‘I wasn’t sure what they were.’
Who, without a job, spends over a week in a tiny flat and doesn’t investigate three empty pouches of organic dog food?
I let the dogs out into his ‘garden’, which is worse than ever. ‘I’m rewilding it,’ was his excuse.
I started to worry. Do I want to clean up after someone for the next 20 years? Or nag them? Or be responsible for booking hotels and organising a flat? I was so depressed, I couldn’t sleep that night.
The next day, I had breakfast with a female colleague in a trendy new place on Piccadilly. It was full of go-getters all eating avocado and brokering deals. This is the London I love. Not the dreary suburbs. I told my friend David’s kitchen has a tree growing through the window.
‘You need to compromise a bit,’ she said wisely.
A huge part of me wants to rescue him, like a partially squashed hedgehog at the side of the road. But I’m not sure I can be bothered. I don’t need more responsibility. I want someone to rescue me.