Recent Comments

    Keep the home fires glowing, Ocado life, January 2013

    When he walks into the room (even if he’s only been away for five minutes) does it make you happy? Is sex as essential as eating and sleeping? Does a bear hug feel better than a four-handed Thai massage in the Maldives? Is his heart where your home is? Then, my dear, you’re in love.


    I should probably record this and other hard-won pearls of wisdom in a scented notebook for my 14-year-old daughter – but, ach, my beautiful girl will make her own, different mistakes.


    So many of our platitudes about love turn out to be big fat fibs. We tell ourselves that no-one stays ‘in love’ for long; those feelings of passionate sexual infatuation are not just transitory, but also juvenile and a bit silly – what we call puppy love.


    Actually I think romantic, sexual love is like finest grade sustainable chips for the wood-burning stove of your heart. If that’s merrily burning away, it makes it so much easier to warm the rest of your house.


    And it turns out that people can be in love for their whole lives. Last year, researchers in the US used MRI to compare the brains of couples who were in the first flush of intense passion with those who had been married for years but still held hands on park benches. The scans revealed the same brain activity in both sets of couples (in the identical pleasure centre, by the way, which is stimulated by recreational drug use).


    It was Paul McCartney who wrote, ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’. It’s a line that’s often taken to mean that you’ll only get back what you put in; but it also expresses the idea of oneness, eternity, ouroboros, the snake swallowing its tale. What goes around comes around, and not always by a direct route.


    When my ten-year-old son comes back from a few days with his dad, hurtles across the station concourse, buries his face in my tummy and holds me round the waist in a small, fierce, tiger-cub embrace, I feel like my heart might break, or overflow.


    But however much my children loves me, I will always love them more (call it the tragedy of procreation). And it’s the unreasoning, primal, unconditional love we give our children that allows them to love as adults. If we haven’t been loved, we can’t love.


    In fact, all the best kinds of love are unreasoning, blind and to some degree miraculous. Take, for example, the late-blossoming love which can rescue a man of mature years and miserabilist constitution from a lonely old age (I’m talking about you, dad). Thanks to the love of a remarkable woman, my father has located his joie de vivre and is back in touch with all his children.


    My father didn’t ‘learn to love himself’, prompting others, as the conventional wisdom goes, to follow suit. Love arrived unbidden and undeserved and, quite frankly, redeemed him.


    It’s a bit unfashionable and certainly not very right-on to believe in a great redemptive love that allows us to become the best we can be. In a society of singletons, we are supposed to have learnt to be OK on our own. Our networks of friends, our pets, our shoe collections and our Twitter accounts have secured us a bright and cheery independence. We don’t need a Significant Other to give our lives meaning.


    Except that, forgive me, I think we do. There’s a great scene in Avatar when Neytiri tells Jake Sully ‘I see you’. She means, ‘I fully apprehend and embrace you in all your messy, complex glory’. Everybody needs to be ‘seen’ that way, and the intimacy of sex, proper sex I mean, is one way we humans get there: stripped back, a poor bare forked creature, and yet still loveable, still OK.


    So the wood-burning stove of my heart is crackling away, but for practical reasons I’ve chosen a graphite Belling range cooker for my new kitchen. It’s a labour of love. The Polish building team have been courteous and marvelously tidy, my boyfriend has visited showrooms of every description and endeavoured to have an opinion, and my children have woken every morning with plaster dust in their hair without complaint.


    And me? This is the house that I built, the house I found and bought and will now make my own after a long and difficult divorce. May the bricks, boards and window panes be imbued with kindness. May the meals I prepare be marinated to slow-cooked tenderness. May my bed be made for love.


    Comments are closed.