Irrecoverable . . . (episode 34)

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3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH

June 18 1997

Dear Mum

Thank you for your last letter and its beautiful description of the rose called ‘Sombreuil.’ It made my mouth water with desire to own one! In answer to your question about what I am going to do once I get to Cuba, I intend to make some long visits to the Havana Botanical Gardens, which also go by the name of the Jardin Botanico Nacional de Cuba. The 600-hectare gardens apparently house the national Palmatum (as opposed to the national Pinetum, Bedgebury, UK) and also vast greenhouses accommodating flora from deserts and tropical rainforests.

I have also made some slight effort to go on one or two dates with men listed in the back of ‘Nights Out,’ which is a London listings magazine. One such outing occurred a couple of evenings ago. I had agreed to meet this chap – Roger – outside the Grainy Ear pub and, promptly at 7pm, he whisked past in a navy-blue 4×4. I could tell immediately mum, from my view through the glass, that he was a deeply unprepossessing individual to say the least of it. And what really stood out – face to face – was what appeared to be a one (and only) front tooth which projected from beneath his top lip. It was, in fact, hard to divert my eyes from it. Also, it didn’t seem very sophisticated to come on a – first – date clad in a pair of baseball boots. He had said, in his email, that he liked cooking, but it turned out that he made his living driving about in a kebab and fish and chip van! An hour in his company ticked past very slowly and it was only after stating that I’d injured my back (in my new role cleaning the house) that I felt able to extricate myself from the situation!

I also keep thinking about Austen, from whom I have heard nothing, and who could – and should – have made some expression of remorse and uttered an apology. Nothing specific (I don’t need to know the specifics) but words along the lines of, “I lied to you. It was wrong. I know I have harmed you. And I am sorry” would have made all the difference – especially if he had meant any of them. But he hasn’t thought he has needed to bother. And now it’s too late.

I remember last year, when Austen was sitting on the Management of the National Debt select committee, and he said – at a public gathering of ministers and experts also on the same committee – that the Chair ‘was not really up to it’ and kept all of them ‘in the dark.’ When he related this anecdote to me, I said, “Well Austen. That was not very diplomatic. How would you feel if someone had done that to you?” I suggested that he phone the man up to apologize – particularly as, by then, the whole thing was building up to the point where Austen might have had to resign. But oh no. Austen just sat by my side in the car, ears laid flat back on his head, and looking like an obstinate mule. “You’re a fool,” I said, kissing him on the pink of his cheek. And he said to me – staring ahead at some fixed point in the distance – “I know.”

So, now, after all that has happened, nothing in our relationship is recoverable – for I can’t forgive it. Total treachery has led to total loss. This is natural. This is a consequence. And if anyone asks me what sort of man I was married to, all I can say is, “He was never a friend in the true sense of that word. He thought that lying was good enough for me. And now look what has happened. Without honesty, no friendship exists.”

With love as ever mum

Your daughter (in law)

Harriet

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