Monday, 12 March 2007

Lovers reunited

Last weekend I took the ferry to Stranraer to collect Jenny and her possessions from Glasgow, where she was working for 14 months. Like hundreds of other Northern Irelanders before her, she found a job she wanted in another country so she was commuting between Belfast and Scotland roughly once a week. Now she's landed a new job in Belfast and she's back home again, I'm glad to say.

It was an interesting experiment, as prior to the Glasgow job Jenny and I had only lived apart for the first few months of our relationship. We certainly learnt a lot about ourselves: that we could be pretty independent on our own but still missed the physical proximity and everything that goes with it - instant sharing of thoughts and feelings, talking through problems and plans, and of course the regular hugs, kisses and other intimacy. If one of us had a crisis while the other was elsewhere, proper support was difficult at the end of a phone line. The myriad emails, texts and phone calls were wonderful but a poor substitute for the real thing.

I cooked lots of proper meals for myself while Jenny stopped cooking and lived on instant snacks. I cleaned our house in Belfast while Jenny cleaned the flat in Glasgow. I managed to keep the accounts solvent despite two lots of spending in two different places.

But although I adapted to Jenny's absences well enough to begin with (and quite enjoyed being on my own), as the months wore on the constant separation felt more and more odd. At one point I felt like someone's mistress, always waiting for a phone call and a fleeting encounter. At another point it seemed I was the one living in Belfast and Jenny was just popping over to visit me. Over the last few months our divided life felt increasingly unnatural and disruptive, so I'm relieved we're together again. Probably our new proximity will take some getting used to when we've had so much personal space, but we're both agreed - no more separations unless we're desperate!

As for the ferry: the total lack of security is still glaring. Our car was not checked in any way either going or returning. It could have been stuffed with enough explosives to wipe out the ferry twice over but hey, let's live dangerously! And wow, is it different from the sedate, demure aircraft ambience. The ferry is more like one big party: everyone milling around, stuffing themselves with food and drink and generally letting their hair down - notably on Sunday night when all the footie fans were singing fit to bust and looking for punchups. Not the ideal spot for two book-clutching intellectuals (i.e. us). Haste ye back? I think not. Especially as neither of us took to Glasgow - too dour and gloomy beside the exuberance of Belfast.

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