STEVE AND RACHEL SPLIT!
the cheery subject of splitting from your partner! More...
Some Things Never...
Football Tales More...
Not sure about writing to all my friends
and telling them I've split up with Rachel in a newsletter!
(Even less sure about informing the world, three years later!!)
THINGS change! Things
change for you; things change for me (I wouldn't be in Malawi if
they didn't); things change for everyone. Newly-weds divorce - things
change. Promotion becomes a lurch into redundancy - things change.
Old friends seldom seen, are replaced by unwanted acquaintances
- things change.
Okay, this is a somewhat
pessimistic view of the world, but it is still an indication of
what change is all about. Change scares us, but can add vitality
to life too. We need change, to keep life interesting. Though the
process can be uncomfortable - we must examine ourselves and our
new aspirations - we are happy of change.
Not surprisingly, things
change in Malawi; things change, rapidly. New volunteers arrive
(or ex-patriots, or...); whilst old volunteers throw wild, lavish
parties, and then promptly leave. Friendships change too: strangers
become new friends; friends become close friends; and friends (sometimes)
sour to enemies. 'Marriage', 'divorce', whatever - no friendship
stays the same. It is a microcosm of home-life, with yearly cycles
condensed to monthly ones: new neighbours, new activities, and new
This change affects Malawians
too, but in a different way. For Malawians are dying at an alarming
rate - more funerals, more condolences, and more and more coping
with death. (Malawians seem to have an indefatigable spirit.)
This change affects Rachel
and myself. A 1995 that consisted of some difficulties between us,
but mostly consisted of fun and adventure, has been transformed
in the two months of 1996. As of February 19th, we have split up;
we are living apart!
I don't mean to be dispassionate
in telling you this news, or impersonal. The last few weeks have
been extremely difficult (but even then there has still been an
enjoyable friendship between us). It's just that this has been February
for me. So, after over 6 years of being together, we have decided
to part; to become separate individuals again.
The immediate change,
therefore, is that I now live alone. And Rachel; she is attempting
to live at another volunteer's home until she can find a permanent
home. We still see each other, and we are still friends. The flat
often feels empty now, however, so returning here after work is
sometimes a depressing time.
As you can imagine we're
finding life difficult. It is hard enough in Britain to split up,
after so long - surrounded by good friends and family; Malawi doesn't
provide such a support network for us though. Our amicability does
mean we can support each other a little (if that doesn't sound too
So. Things change. Now
I try to have the flat looking as tidy and clean as possible, if
I know that Rachel is going to visit. Now I make sure the bed is
clean and presentable. Now I don't find other things to do - like
this! - if she is here; I listen to her and try and attend to any
needs she may have. Now I make more effort in food-preparation,
make sure there is something she can eat.
Things change. (And even
these changes may change, as our relationship inevitably cools,
and each other's company becomes less important to the other.)
Right now, though, it
feels like we have returned to first-dating. It feels like, despite
our past intimacy and our several years together, it feels like
we have become attracted strangers. No assumptions, and no expectations;
we just listen and support.
Each time I see Rachel,
I still fear the dreaded news of some new romantic adventure, or
- and this is worse - I fear her indifference towards me, a time
when I am simply not important to her.
Each time Rachel sees
me, she expects to hear of my next fling. (A fear that does have
some historical, and painful, precedence for her.) And how long
will it be before I weakly seek the comfort of another - another
Things change. And in
a few years from now, all this will have been smoothed over with
the steam-iron of time. Maybe I'll still be single, living the enviable
life of the casual lover, roaming wherever. Maybe I'll be married
to my next lover; married, with children. Maybe I'll be married...
to Rachel; our troubled souls more at ease, able to enjoy our undeniable
I'm glad things change;
I am. But there are dark moments of despair, of solitude, of regretful
wishing over opportunities past. Living alone is going to be hard.
Living alone in Malawi asks awkward questions about ambition, about
work, about family and commitment, about travel, about contentment,
and about desire. Questions I must answer, for me to change.
Things change - for better,
for worse; for richer, for poorer - things change.
Some Things Never Change
I STILL play football
for teams with crazy names, like Royal Insurance Social or - and
this is the latest team I've played for - Merlin Wizards! (I thought
Torpedo was a daft name, but Merlin Wizards!?)
I still manage to score
in every game I play in, be it eleven-a-side or five-a-side. Looping
headers to the far corner, or sweeping moves ending in a simple
And I still manage to
miss glaring chances for goal. I Skew it left or hoof it over -
all spectacularly bad, and all deserving of the moniker 'Shot-Shy'.
I still enjoy football,
though (especially the bit where I can tell you how wonderful I've
been playing). I try not to think that I am getting slower, or less
clever. And I try not to think that I will go that game without
scoring (winning always seemed less important than my scoring, for
I think I will still
be playing football in my sixties, as well as being the old man
in the corner bopping like a young un down the local night-club.
You see, not everything has to change. (Imagine if it did. I would
grow old, and stop playing football and start playing snooker, instead
- eek! Or instead of grinding to James Brown, I would be tapping
my feet to Cliff Richard (double eek!!).)
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