Where does the black dog come from?
This one poked its miserable head a few inches out of the kennel as we drove into Southwold Saturday afternoon. Maureen was talking about her 60 years, and her various regrets, some of these linked to work choices.
We parked, and browsed the shops for a top she could wear on Sunday evening. Shops struggle to interest me, but it felt good to help. And Southwold is not plagued by the usual set of horrible high street franchises. Eventually, we found an orange sweater she liked. She tutted about the price.
We decided to eat in an Adnams pub. Maureen nipped off to the loos and left me to order. Being a sucker for curry, I requested the chicken jalfrezi. So pleased to be out of the biting wind. Antipasto for her. Ten minutes later, a huge platter arrived with several cured meats, and I watched her face descend. “I wanted the vegetarian option”. Shite. I hadn’t been listening hard enough.
The waitress was not happy, but reluctantly agreed to take it back. Maureen reckoned that the woman behind the bar had clearly heard the vegetarian order. The pub landlord was sitting nearby, looking disgruntled.
Some of this was my responsibility, so I offered to have the meat antipasto myself, and could they please bring the vegetarian version for Maureen. For the same price? Yes. So another large meal arrived. Everyone seemed placated until five minutes later, when the waitress lugged out a sizeable curry. I had assumed it would be cancelled, without specifying.
We sent it back, to more glowers from behind the bar. Not sure if the landlord thought his staff were crap or his new customer was mad.
I could have handled all that but Maureen’s eyes had filled with tears. We finished the food quietly and tried to walk off the blues that had crept in under the radar. Southwold is so dark at night, and none of my stabs at conversation had any positive effect.
The drive across to Leiston cinema was almost silent. One of those occasions where my every thought had become pessimistic. Was it a poor sleep on our first night? The reflections on the downsides of being 60? Our ever-precarious financial situation? Tried to let the thoughts come and go, without much success.
Leiston was equally dark. So few street lights. We were early for the cinema, and found a pizza restaurant to sit and have a coffee. By a warm heater. The proprietor was a charming Italian. The place could have featured in Twin Peaks. Very bright, clean and unadorned. I wondered if a dwarf in a red suit might stroll in, speaking backwards, or a tree with a brain appear behind our table.
We started to talk about our three children. The pros and cons of them being young, and the easier but lonelier days when they have fled the nest. Holidays that we had been on. The course of our lives.
Suddenly, without warning, the blues had gone.
The cinema possessed the charm of a bygone age. Each seat was sponsored by a local citizen. The film, ‘Welcome to Marwen’, was OK. The experience was brilliant. We departed on a high. Had a great sleep and a brilliant Sunday.
Maureen said later that she had felt pulled down so remorselessly at one point that she was on the verge of asking me to cancel her birthday celebration back in Chelmsford. Which turned out very happily, with about 20 friends and family toasting the light that she shines out.
I suspect she is no different from most people in her vulnerability to negativity that can steal in silently. We all react differently. The blessing is that these feelings are almost always transient, and their departure brings relief and joyful perspective.