Liv­ing sep­a­rate but to­gether an op­tion

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - ROWAN PELLING

Back in the days when I edited The Erotic Re­view, the dash­ing poet Hugo Wil­liams wan­dered into our Lon­don of­fice ev­ery now and then to se­lect the best verse from our mail bag.

I once asked him what he planned to do on a par­tic­u­lar weekend and was struck when he said, “I’m go­ing to visit my wife at her home in France.”

Her home? This seemed rather ex­otic, even for habitués of Erotic Tow­ers, but Wil­liams ex­plained his wife had in­her­ited a coun­try house and was run­ning it as an artis­tic com­mu­nity.

He sup­ported his spouse’s en­ter­prise, but had no in­ten­tion of aban­don­ing his tran­quil study in Hamp­stead for the shared chores and chaos of com­mu­nal liv­ing.

The idea of be­ing mar­ried “apart to­gether” seemed rather odd to me then, but to­day — es­pe­cially when I note the Wil­liamses have been 49 years spliced — it makes bet­ter sense.

When you’re young and lovesick, it’s in­tol­er­a­ble to be more than a heart­beat away from your beloved. But when you’re older, a room of one’s own isn’t bold enough a day­dream: why not a whole sep­a­rate house?

My hus­band and I can never read of a for­tu­nate celebrity who has wealth and gump­tion enough to adopt this life­style with­out sob­bing in envy. Take the ac­tor Martin Shaw, who an­nounced re­cently he lives 200 yards away from his part­ner, Karen da Silva, but the cou­ple use both houses and this suits them just fine.

And then there’s ac­tress He­lena Bon­ham Carter and hus­band-di­rec­tor Tim Bur­ton, who also live in ad­join­ing abodes. One rea­son? Bur­ton snores.

My hus­band is an only child, who man­aged to main­tain an or- derly solo hearth un­til I nabbed him when he was 42 and I was 27. It’s fair to say he’s never quite got over the shock. This, af­ter all, is a man who shelves books in the­matic or­der and chases down germs with bleach. I file im­por­tant pa­pers un­der the car­pet and treat dis­carded mugs as petri dishes. Then our sons came along and added in­sult to in­ju­ri­ous mess: as when the old­est peed on his Dy­lan CDs and the youngest pulled the pro­pel­lers off five painstak­ingly as­sem­bled Spit­fire mod­els. The boys and I jeer when he plays Grate­ful Dead tracks.

The truth is, the poor chap needs a cot­tage in the He­brides, or a re­fit­ted nu­clear bunker. But next door would do for starters.

Some mar­ried friends spent their first five years of wed­lock in two houses with ad­join­ing back gar­dens.

She used to creep through a gap in his gar­den fence in a fur coat and skimpy panties, and both par­ties were the mer­rier for sep­a­rate abodes. Then she fell preg­nant and they bought a home to­gether. Now the poor man looks as hunted as my hus­band.

Not that it’s just male part­ners who suf­fer. I’d love just once to watch a film that doesn’t in­volve su­per­heroes, aliens or gang­sters. I want to make a shrine to shoes. I long to play Dolly Par­ton til my ears bleed.

Would it re­ally be un­nat­u­ral to park my men folk across the picket fence with their boys’ toys and The So­pra­nos?

I’ll gladly keep the cat and Game of Thrones.


When you’re young and lovesick, it’s in­tol­er­a­ble to be away from your beloved. But when you’re older, liv­ing in sep­a­rate rooms or even houses doesn’t seem so far-fetched any more.

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