Sunday 5 April 2009

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Wedded Bliss IV

© John Sawyer – April 2009

As I leave the toilet and walk to the basin to wash my hands, I notice (trip over) a pile of my clothes on the floor. A pair of striped pyjama pants, a pair of holey but much loved dullish red socks and a political campaign T-shirt with a very out of date message about Mark Latham that can only be worn in bed. They’ve been there since I had my shower just before lunch yesterday. Gee, Wendy is making her own political point; I wonder what else I’ve done wrong.

I know Wendy is making a point. She is so compulsive about cleaning and tidying up that she spends 2 hours cleaning and tidying the house before the cleaner comes in each week. A couple of weeks ago we were just leaving the house before the cleaner arrived and there was hell to pay. I’d let an eyedropper’s worth of water fall on the floor as I got out of the shower. I had to sit in the car tapping the steering wheel for five minutes while Wendy conducted another sweep of the house to remove any signs of domestic inefficiency that might cause the cleaner offence and be spread around the Richmond cleaner’s grapevine. When we finally left the house, a cross-armed, head slightly turned, snorting silence accompanied the first couple of kilometres of the journey.

I pick up yesterday’s discards and creep through the kitchen into our bedroom where the washing basket lives. Wendy’s sitting at the kitchen table browsing home shopping sites on her computer; she studiously ignores me, so I’m provoked into provoking her.

“I must have been in a hurry after my shower yesterday” get’s no response.

I stop and look directly at Wendy, “Yeah, I must have been really rushing yesterday to even think of leaving my dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. I’m just so anal about cleaning up after myself” can only extract a melodramatic, Sarah Bernhardt, turn of the head and a simultaneous eyebrow raising appeal to the invisible audience just off-stage.

“I suppose things…” I think better of my next statement and let self censorship rule the day.

“Go on say it. I know exactly what you’re going to say.”

I can’t be provoked into any indiscretions, “No, I have nothing to say.”

Wendy takes the running: “I’ve been living with you a bloody long time mate. I know what you’re thinking. I can just imagine what a pigsty this place would be if you were here on your own. There’d be huge piles of dirty clothes all over the house with empty beer bottles and cardboard pizza trays covering every surface. You’d have to call your daughter Susan over to buy you more underpants at Kmart.”

“No, that’s not right Wendy. Things would be different. I’d get someone in.”

“Please! Get someone in. Who could you …?”

“Yes, I’d get someone in all right and next time I’d be a bit more selective. I’d be a bit firmer about what I’d allow. For a start, she wouldn’t be running off to exercise classes or going to coffee shops with her girlfriends to do crossword puzzles every day. She’d be very happy to stay …” Self censorship never lasts long with me.

“Sure, Jack. Your selection process is usually awfully vigorous. You manage to fall in love with every female from any species that normally walks upright. All she needs is a smile. Do you really think this woman you’d select would be happy staying here cooking for you and cleaning up your bloody mess…”

“Yeah and she’d be more than happy with my romantic attentions as well.”

My final parry only provokes feigned operatic laughter, each word delivered as a series of slow, measured, verbal punches: “HA! - HA! - HA! – You – make - me - laugh!” A delivery that invokes no thought of laughter or happiness. “… and put those clothes IN the washing basket this time. Lift the bloody lid and put the clothes INSIDE the basket. That’s why it’s hollow and has a lid; to put things INSIDE. You’re a ‘so-called’ intellectual.” Her fingers supply the mimed quotation marks, “That’s what you’re always telling me. No – don’t just drop them on the top and hope that some poor slave will put them in for you.”


I move out to my chair on the back verandah and think about our week away together in a couple of weeks time. I have this idea for a story about water and Chinese influence in our political process. I’ve got a few characters, including a Minister for Water who did his plumber’s apprenticeship at Richmond City Council. I want to look at how the Murray and the forests are going and look at and listen to people outside the city.

Wendy is usually a pretty good travelling companion. She likes looking at people and notices stuff about them that I often miss. She really doesn’t understand maps so she pretty much leaves the driving and associated decision making up to me. One major exception that got up Wendy’s nose was when I had a company car and petrol card with unlimited private use. My mum was running a bit slowly and didn’t have much longer to live, so we all decided to make a last trip around the Wimmera and visit Sheep Hills where she was born.

On the Saturday afternoon we found ourselves in Rainbow with next to no petrol. The petrol station was closed and the lonely old bloke asleep on a bar stool in the pub told me that “They’re all gone to bloody Jeparit for the bloody footy cobber.Three footy teams and a couple of netball teams for the shielas. No bugger’ll be back here til very bloody late mate.”

“I bloody told you to get petrol back there when you could, but oh no, you insisted on waiting until you could fill up for free at a Shell station. Now what are you going to do, Mr know it all, every town’s got a Shell station these days, smart alec?”

I decided we’d go the 35Km to Jeparit and fill up there, regardless of the brand. Needless to say, the trip was rather hushed. Wendy managed to find her big black, “I’m not available”, former Hollywood starlet sunglasses, she tilted her seat back just far enough so that I had trouble looking at her and stared impassively out the window. My Dad tried to negotiate a peace settlement by talking about the countryside while I had a silent argument with myself about how hard done by I was. I didn’t really know if she was staring or sleeping and if slight movement is one of the life indicators she might even have been dead .

There was still no movement or comment when we arrived at the petrol station in Jeparit. “See it’s a Shell station Wendy.” The silence was deafening when Dad read out the sign just inside the locked front door. “Closed. Back after the footy.”

The silence was finally broken as we drove into the Sir Robert Menzies Sports Ground and Dad reached into his pocket to pay the donation to watch the footy. Wendy turned her head slightly towards me and quietly announced that “He’ll pay!” – a statement with many frightening connotations.


It’s not an issue about not getting on with each other. Sure, we sometimes sit at opposite ends of the tram on the way home from a particularly thought provoking play. We save our arguments for the seven minute walk from the tram to the house.

It’s not like we can’t spend time together. We once spent nine days alone together in a deserted farmhouse. It was the middle of winter. We had plenty of food and drink, a big open fire with lots of fuel and a big bay window that looked out over a beautiful lake. We had a radio that picked up Radio National very well and a selection of about twenty books of various genres. Everything you could possibly need really; or nearly everything. On the sixth day I was despatched to drive the 50Km each way to town to buy a dictionary so that we could properly define the terms of the argument we’d started after a particularly thought provoking radio program on some important social and ethical issues.


Wendy bursts through the back door brandishing a copy of The AGE. “Did you see this article about all the lakes drying up along the Murray? It’ll be good background for your story.” Wendy doesn’t carry an argument for long and that’s a good job too; we have so many.

“Yeah thanks, I saw it but I’m not clear if they are only letting the man-made lakes dry up… Hey Wendy, you know I’ve been sitting here thinking about our trip next week…”

“You mean the week after don’t you?”

“Yeah sorry Wendy. Err come here, I’ve got something to tell you.”

Wendy puts here hands on her hips and pouts provocatively: “No, you say it from there.”

“Well, I was thinking about a week away from the computer where I have nothing else to do but concentrate on ravishing your ravishing beauty. You're gonna love it.”

“See you always spoil it with your stupid suggestions. Is that all you think about? And you really overdo the use of the Thesaurus, you know.” Wendy slams the flyscreen as she goes inside, but I think I see just a hint of a smile.


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