Last night my friend Sandy (wife no.2 of my first husband), read my post about forgiveness and wrote a lengthy e-mail correcting some of my misconceptions. It reminded me of a movie I saw in 1966, called, ‘Anatomy of a Marriage.’ This film was split in half. One half was the marriage remembered by the wife, and the other by the husband, with completely different interpretations of the same marriage.
Since then, I’ve spoken with Sandy and asked for her permission to use her e-mail on the blog. She has generously agreed, as we are aware there must be other people living out there with bi-polar partners. If it helps them see some things more clearly, that is good.
Before I add the story, Umberto didn’t always tell the truth, so some of my reasons for believing things otherwise was with his help… and yes, I did meet Sabine.
I’m intrigued by the stark paragraph in your post on bitterness etc
“My husband had left me for another woman.”
That was a surprise. Clearly you’re talking about Bert, as you were
just back from overseas. But I never heard that from him and am
wondering who it could have been if not me!
He never admitted to me that he’d left you for any reason other than
shortage of funds. He always said that the house at Wise’s Firs was
too expensive, and he couldn’t convince you to move to somewhere
cheaper, so he moved out. (A typically weird Bertus-style solution to
a problem!) So unless there really was Another Woman, I’ve assumed
that it was just that he was manic and doing his usual weird manic
stuff. But there again, I know he was having a lot to do with Sabine
at the time. Did you ever meet her? She was a European (German?)
Jungian analyst, living in Reading, married to a rather shy little
grey man. I met them both and never had the impression she was all
that involved with him other than perhaps as a client. Maybe it was
the woman in Switzerland, Aviva, who led him astray, but I thought she
was earlier in the catalogue?
If you think it was ME he left you for, I think it’s quite staggering
how wonderfully kind you’ve always been to me in spite of thinking so.
But I do want to say that you’d be wrong to think so. The story
actually goes like this…
I first got to know Bert a little better after he moved in with Robin
Kinross: before that he was a mysterious figure in an unusual greenish
greatcoat who was hardly ever to be seen in the Department! He drifted
in occasionally to pick up his mail and talk to Dr Twyman, Mr Morris,
and the other staff. He’d amuse us all by brewing himself a cup of
some strange potion in his own little teapot, and then quietly drift
away again. Once he was living at Robin’s he became much more part of
the scene, and spent social end-of-summer-term times with Martin, Sue,
Thump and Leslie and the rest of us. So that’s when we all had more to
do with him and heard, often at great length, some of his private
theories on all sorts of subjects.**
But I was never aware of any relationship going on at that time.
Whoever she was, she wasn’t there to help him move all his stuff out
and pack up the house: that was where I came in, being the only
student still around in the middle of the summer holidays.
He turned up at my house on Shinfield Road at maybe 7 o’clock one
morning very shortly after you had left for Australia, to ask if I
would help him clear out the house before the next rent payment fell
due. He gave me directions about how to get there on my bicycle. His
mudmap showed the beginning and the end of the journey but not the
middle. Had I known how far it was I might have been less obliging!
When I finally got there he was in quite a mess, everything in a state
of upheaval, jumbled piles of stuff everywhere, no starter motor on
his car, nowhere to move things to – all quite typical, I now know,
but I assumed he was just dazed and in pain after the family breakup.
I remember washing up, and helping to carry around the things that
took two of us to lift. I suggested an empty bomb shelter on campus as
a store-room. He liked that idea, and did eventually move a lot of
stuff in there and put a padlock on the door. For days he was driving
to and fro with various loads all squeezed into his little white car.
Eventually we came to realise that he was actually now needing to find
new digs, and as it happened I was looking for a new lodger; he had a
lot of furniture and I had almost none. So that seemed to work out
very well. We settled on that; he moved the rest of his stuff into my
house, surreptitiously disposing of some of mine that he didn’t
approve of, and we got him established in the Lodger’s Room upstairs
with all the white boxes, a little bed, and a huge work surface which
must have been a nightmare to get up there – I can’t remember how we
did that. Almost immediately after he was settled in, pausing only to
repaint my bathroom in a colour he preferred, he set off to do a
working stint in Switzerland to make some money.
When he came back in about October, it was as if there was someone
completely different now living in my house: someone new, not the same
person we’d all come to know in the summer. I tell the story that he
was a six-o’clock lodger when he left, and a ten-o’clock lodger when
he came back. I’d been in training while he was away, expecting to
have to be up earlier than my usual 7.30 or so to keep pace with the
new lodger… But no! He’d swung from manic to depressed, of course,
but I didn’t understand all that in those days. I just reasoned that
the change in him was due to his having come down from the drama and
rush of all that he’d been going through in the summer, and I wasn’t
surprised that he was now depressed, having lost his family, his home,
now his passion for his project – and eventually his income when Dr
Twyman had to cancel his scholarship because he just wasn’t working.
I must admit though that I found him much more appealing than he had
been while chirpy, and much easier to relate to. That was when I began
to feel more involved with him, closer to him, and that was the
beginning of our connection as anything other than fellow-students and
housemates. I gave up my course in the January as I was afraid to
leave him alone at home, and in the end he did make an ineffectual
suicide attempt in the June, after which he booked his trip to
Australia. He was chirpy again when he came back in December from that
six-month visit: he bought the London taxi and organised for us to go
up to Stafford together to do ad hoc studies in typography with Peter
Burnhill, largely to fill in the time until he was due to go back to
Australia to the teaching job waiting for him at SCA. And so the
switchback ride of the first six months of 1977 began, which ended
with our June wedding and July landing in Sydney.
I don’t know if you realise that he soon fell into another deep
depression and attempted suicide again that October? He was in
hospital for a couple of weeks that time, having broken his nose,
wrist and knee jumping off a high place when he escaped from the
psychiatric unit at the Royal North Shore. You also may not realise
that he left me, too, while we were living in our house at
Drummoyne… at least twice, maybe three times, each time in the early
summer when he was on a manic upswing. He would pack up all his own
belongings, together with everything that his family had given us (or
me), and he’d be absent for a couple of months or so. He twice
arranged a lodger from among his students, someone to share our house
with me and to help pay the bills. He generally came back in January
or so, heading downwards in mood and leaving assorted broken hearts in
his wake, including once a boy he’d shared a room with somewhere.
Anyway, if there was another Other Woman back there in 1975 I’d love
to hear about her! Thank you so much Barbara for being such a
wonderful ex-wife-in-law, and sharing your girls with me so
generously. I tell people often, and proudly, that when you and I
appeared at Fran’s wedding to Jim, wearing one red and one blue outfit
otherwise very similar, Fran said “Look at you two! You get dressed
500km apart and turn up in the same outfit!” and you replied “Well, we
are your mothers”. I still think that’s one of the nicest things
that’s ever happened to me. So thank you for that too. And I’m so glad
you got the advice you did from the wise woman, and didn’t let your
experience of being with Bert damage you – in fact I think surviving
him and forgiving him must have done us both lots of good!
Love and hugs, dear Barbara,
**And by the way, I got to know Francesca a little that summer, too! I
happened to go into the Department one day to do the artwork for a
badge for Mick Scott’s Scout troop (! that’s called ‘doing a foreign
order’ here !) and found Bert in there with this lovely little girl.
She was printing her name, Francesca, in great big woodblock type on
the proofing press. No-one else much was around. When they’d finished
he brought her over to my desk to show me her work, and got her to
tell me where she was going to be going soon: “To ‘stralia, on a
airplane”. I have always been hugely impressed that when we first came
to Devonport more than two years later she said to me “Oh, I remember
you. You were sitting in the corner painting an eagle.” And indeed, I
had been working at my desk in the corner of the big classroom. When I
mentioned that story to her not very long ago she said “Well, it was a
damned fine eagle!”