By which he meant I’ve ruined his concept of our rural idyll. The Cotswolds is no longer the joyous place where we arrive together each Thursday night for the weekend, our worldly cares evaporating as we leave urban grit behind and roll past open landscape, starry skies, and stone cottages into the market square where the wine bar sits waiting for us with convivial conversation, a roaring fire, and glass or three of wine. It is now the place where I live, littered with the detritus of daily life like dishes in the sink and half-read New Yorkers. I was careful to minimize such evidence before husband showed up for the first time since I’d permanently moved into the country cottage, but he could imagine it and that was enough to whip him into a froth.
He doesn’t seem to remember that this was all his idea in the first place. Gone is any recollection of the way he tarted up a very dull job in nearby Swindon that I interviewed for unsuccessfully last summer. He was a used car salesman touting the merits of an IT directorship for a, yawn, computing society because it was after all a means to an end: to live full-time in the Cotswolds. His brain didn’t seem to make the logical follow-on calculation that if I got a job near the Cotswolds, I would be living here full-time but he would still have a job in London. Now he understands. I live in the beautiful Cotswolds all the time. I am the enemy. It’s a good thing I get two nights a week on my own.
January passes and, luckily for me, husband finds another person to hate. He has a new boss, who coincidentally used to work with me at my former London employer. Husband’s new boss is a music industry big shot, French, and was known to occasionally have a silent conversation with my chest in the elevator. This last fact is known to husband but is not what causes the new boss, already nicknamed Inspector Closeau, to become his nemesis. Husband just doesn’t like having a boss and the situation prior to Inspector Closeau’s arrival was that of a boss in name rather than practice. I am no longer person non grata numero uno, but husband’s resentment towards me still grows because I am unavailable in person two nights a week for him to bitch about the Inspector.
Still, the heat is off enough that I can safely share with husband some insight into the loveliness of my new daily life. There’s the gym I’ve joined in Cirencester, or “siren” as we locals call it. It’s run by the local council, but it’s nicer and cheaper than any private gym I’ve been to in London. You can park (for free!), there’s a café, and you get a little USB type key you plug into all the workout machines so they record your workout. With these kind of amenities no wonder people live in Gloucestershire. It’s a no brainer, the same way homeless people gravitate to Santa Monica. I think this rather than say it out loud to husband.
In his exasperation husband put the London flat on the rental market back in December, toying with the idea that he could join me in my full-time country life. This would mean about four hours of daily commute time assuming all goes smoothly, and with the recession in full swing and the rental market sagging, it seemed a bit of a bluff. There are, in fairness, gentlemen of a certain means who regularly commute into London from Gloucestershire. I’ve seen them on the railway platform with their laptop bags and velvet collared coats on the odd morning last year when I trained into London for work. But I suspect most of them have a pied-à-terre in London to accommodate the not infrequent train cancellations, bad weather, and occasional night out in London. We essentially have a pied-à-terre in London, it just costs about twice as much as life in the country which takes the air out of any charm associated with having property with a French nickname. We may have a house in Poshtershire, but we’re several salary zeros away from these commuting gents.
At the end of January we got a call from the estate agent. She had an offer on our flat from an Italian couple moving over to England to work. They were offering £300 per week, £10 less per week than we wanted. This made it easy. I said no, thinking the matter was closed. She called back the next day: the Italians would go to £310. We thought about it. We debated the pros and cons and did the math, all day, all night, and part of the next day. Crazily, the cost of a monthly train ticket is more than half of our monthly mortgage on the London flat which means there’s a lot of potential commuting aggravation without that much financial benefit in consolidating homes. I told husband it was his decision. He turned the offer down. The agent came back with an offer of £320 per week. Husband apologized, said no, and took the flat off the market. It appears, for now, we have a London flat. Make that a pied-à-terre.