Will my children like my girlfriend?

dating couple

I’m going to deviate from my normal blogging about my writing journey. Everyone needs to play from time to time, right?

I’m not one to brag, but allow me to gloat for a while. I went on a date the other night. It was with Eliza from Adelaide. Eliza is my age, but she’s lively, chatty, wears cool clothes and loves ‘hip’ music. If anything serious comes of our dates, Eliza may well party me into an early grave.

But we need to negotiate a few big hurdles before we get anywhere near that far. According to Eliza, there’s my taste in music, my dress sense, my dancing and my inability to be coherent after two glasses of wine. To be fair to Eliza, sometimes I struggle to be coherent before wine.

According to me, there’s Eliza’s use of her bragging rights whenever the cricket’s on.

None of those hurdles, except for maybe the last one, is insurmountable.

The bit I will spend more time worrying about is whether Eliza will get on with my children. Would they like her? Would she like them? What would she say when I inevitably phone her and tell her I can’t come out to play because Boy One is ill, or because I’ve got to take Boy Two to football?

You see, I’m a single dad.

Or to put it another way, I’m a dad with significant childcare responsibilities who would very much like not to be single for ever.

I separated from my wife just over a year ago. She has some issues which, from time to time, prevent her from being the mother that she would otherwise be. Our two teenage boys spend much of their time with me.

I love my boys to bits. I love them being with me, but I also miss adult conversation. In fact, with my boys being teenagers, I miss any conversation that doesn’t sound like a grunt.

My days are filled with domestic chores, from explaining the point of soap through to washing school uniform. As an added bonus I even iron it sometimes. I supervise homework and I break-up the fights. I probably start some too.

Occasionally, when I fancy a break from the routine and can find a respite carer (the boys won’t tolerate ‘baby-sitter’), I engineer myself a night out.

To start with, I wasn’t very active on the dating scene during these occasional nights out. All too often I would end up drinking with my married mates. But gradually my need for the odd bit of intimacy, rather than just hearing about my mates’ intimacy with their respective wives, pushed me to reconsider my stance.

It took me a while to convince myself that I was allowed to date again. I didn’t want my boys to think I was betraying their mother. Or, worse still, trying to replace her.

Being someone who likes to build a consensus before I act, I canvassed the views of the people who mattered most to me before I started dating.

‘You shouldn’t be dating yet,’ my mother offered, ‘it’s far too soon.’

‘You haven’t been dating yet?’ my friends asked, ‘has it fallen off?’

‘You shouldn’t bother,’ my sons mocked, ‘no woman will want you.’ Thanks boys.

In the end, a few months ago I chose to ignore my family’s advice and braved my first date. It was with Sue from Essex. She was attractive, intelligent and sophisticated. Probably too sophisticated for me.

We went out a few times together. We got on well. I was thinking of inviting her round to dinner with my boys, but I suddenly had a vision of awkward silences at the dinner table. Sue was a womanly woman, into make-up, fake eyelashes, enhancements and nail polish. My sporty boys would have been petrified of having to talk to her.

After a good deal of agonising, I opted not to continue seeing Sue from Essex. My mates called me an idiot.

Dating after kids is a different world from dating before kids. No longer does my date have to impress my mother over Sunday lunch before the relationship becomes serious. Now, I care more about whether she impresses my children.

What are the implications of this for me going forward? I will probably end up dating a young-sounding cool woman who doesn’t do rules and discipline. Someone who likes ‘alternative’, whatever that means. Someone from a cool place.

Someone like Eliza from Adelaide.

Update on my writing…

Six Months to Get a Life is my not autobiographical at all tale of a man’s struggle to come to terms with life after divorce. Will Graham Hope get over his ex? Will he continue to be a great dad to his kids? More importantly, will he ever have sex again?

The book continues to receive great reviews. I was interviewed on local radio a few days ago. The audio will be added to my website in the next couple of days.

Now that I am a full-time author, my second book, Six Lies, is progressing well. It would be no exaggeration to say that I am really excited about it. The aim is to finish a first draft by the end of June.

Graham Hope’s dirty world cup weekend

This week I have decided to post a topical extract from ‘Six months to get a life’. I would love to know what you think. PS. the book is still with my editor!

Well, we are now back from our dirty weekend.

I was quite nervous about the weekend. Other than a few evenings drinking and a few afternoons dog walking, Amy and I hadn’t spent much time together before this weekend. We had only kissed each other a couple of times in parting. I haven’t even been to her house. She hasn’t been to my flat either but I don’t mind that because it’s a dive. Maybe it’s a bit soon to be going on a dirty weekend? Would we get on? Would we have enough to say to each other? Ok, maybe those things weren’t at the forefront of my mind. Would the sex be any good? Could I keep going for more than a minute? Would I manage more than once a day?

All these questions were going through my mind as we travelled up to the Lake District in Amy’s Porsche. We had the roof down for some of the way but my contact lense blew out on the A3 so we had to settle for roof up and Amy driving. Not exactly the best start to the weekend. And things got worse as the M something or other was an effing nightmare. We were aiming to find a nice country pub somewhere a fair way north of Birmingham to have lunch. In the end we had to settle for a service station Cornish pasty.

When we eventually arrived at the bed and breakfast, our first impressions were good. The view was spectacular. But that is about the best that can be said for the B&B. The worst that can be said for it is that the room only had twin beds. And they creaked, even when you just sat on them. “Do you want me to moan?” Amy asked. Yes, yes, yes. It took me a while to work out that Amy meant complain to the manager about the twin beds.

In any event, by this point I wasn’t feeling exactly horny. In fact I was feeling decidedly dodgy. Was it nerves? I don’t think so. Nerves imply butterflies in your stomach. What I had in my stomach felt more like flesh-eating reptiles. I blame the pasty. Maybe they should tax them more?

My first night with Amy should have been a thing of beauty. Instead I spent most of it trying to be discreet whilst throwing up or worse in the toilet. Amy was almost certainly glad of the twin beds in the end.

I was still feeling fragile in the morning and we were a bit late going down to breakfast. We were somewhat surprised to be given a standing ovation by a group of blokes sitting in the corner of the small dining room when we walked in. A tad self-consciously we waved to them and got on with choosing our fruit juices – actually water for me on account of my dodgy stomach.

The establishment’s proprietor, a buxom old goat with a mischievous grin on her face, wandered over and asked us for our breakfast order. Once we had put in our requests she surprised us. “Do you know what,” she announced, “I haven’t seen the chandelier wobble like that since the vicar and his wife came to stay in 1985.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. “Say no more, say no more,” she said with a nod and a wink. A few minutes later a clinically obese couple waddled in for breakfast looking rather red-faced but contented. I pushed my solitary piece of toast aside and gave up on breakfast as a bad job.

Amy made a decent job of hiding her irritation at being called on to be a nursemaid rather than a lover for the first day of our trip. Instead of tackling Helvellyn and Striding Edge we ended up sitting in tea rooms and mopping my brow. As the day progressed I did recover enough to walk to Troutbeck. Our kids and dogs would have loved the walk but I confess that I was happy without them. I was glad to have some time alone with Amy, even if it wasn’t going quite as I had planned.

We had a very pleasant early pub dinner – I ordered a jacket spud, the blandest thing I could find on the menu. As the bill arrived Amy went off for a loo break. Convenient timing. Anyway, whilst I got my credit card out I took the opportunity to give myself another pep-talk. “Come on Graham, pull yourself together. Get a grip and start showing your kahunas, metaphorically speaking at least. Think Ben Affleck not Benny Hill; Billy Crystal not Billy no mates; George Clooney not George and Zippy. At the moment you are Hugh Grant without the charm or the looks – i.e. nothing. Come on, man up.” Churchillian stuff, even if I do say so myself.

“Darling, I am feeling much better now,” I announced as Amy returned from the ladies, “how’s about I whisk you back to the B&B and we see if we can make the chandelier shake more than that fat couple did?” “Sorry Graham,” Amy replied looking somewhat disappointed, “my period has just started. It must be all that walking.”

I can’t remember that happening to Harry when he met Sally. Still, we at least ‘enjoyed each other’s company’ on Saturday night.

Yesterday was world cup final day. We spent it strolling around quaint little villages with the million other tourists. We must now be famous in Asia, having appeared the background of hundreds of Japanese tourists’ photos.

We spent the evening watching the final with a bunch of drunk German students. Great banter.

All in all it was a great weekend but if I told my mates about it they would probably take the piss. Only I could end up going on a dirty weekend and not get my leg over.

New extract, new author, new writing tips

I think I need to hone my response when someone comments on the lack of my wedding ring as today’s conversation with Sarah at work didn’t go swimmingly.

“Oh Graham, what’s happened to your wedding ring?”

“Sarah, I took it off because I have been officially divorced for two days now, I am single and living with my parents and seeing my kids at weekends.”

Sarah finished making her cup of tea rather quickly and left me alone in the kitchen.

I guess my response was a bit overpowering; in the same way as an innocent ‘how are you’ enquiry at the tea point might not be anticipating a ‘I have got cancer and only 4 weeks to live’ response…

Divorce does tend to dominate your life for a while. I have lost a lot of confidence in myself, in my ability to communicate and in my expectation that others will be interested in what I have to say.

My social life has suffered as a result. Confident people have more friends. Fact.

My social life has also suffered because, when we divorced, most of our ‘mutual’ friends took sides with my ex and are now giving me the cold shoulder. Or is that just my imagination? My lack of confidence is making me paranoid.

I remember when I used to be in with the drinking crowd at work. Every Friday night, most Friday lunchtimes and other nights too, I would get invited to various drinks to celebrate Fred’s leaving, Emily’s engagement, John’s promotion, Gemma’s new hairdo or Eamon’s ‘coming out party’. I am now considered too old to receive such invites, or maybe too married. We will see if they start flooding in to my inbox again now that I’m divorced.

 

Graham Hope is a fictional character who makes his entrance into the world in my forthcoming book ‘Six Months to Get a Life’.

I am thoroughly enjoying writing this book. In a short period of time I have learnt a lot about the whole process, from picking up valuable writing and editing tips through to information on how to promote your book through effective marketing, social media usage and book pricing.

I have been so impressed with other authors’ preparedness to share their secrets. I am going to share some of the valuable tips I have picked up from others in the coming weeks via this blog.

This week I stumbled across a couple of ‘writing process blog tour’ entries that reassured me. Writing isn’t something I do from 9-5, sitting in my study.

Until now I have been worried that I haven’t been systematic enough in my approach to writing. I write at irregular times and often in odd places. Often on the Northern Line. Delia Sherman and William Alexander suggest that I am not alone. Reassuring!