On the hen do, I was struck by luck - all non-competitive invitees were willing to put aside their aversions to competitive sports long enough to spend a weekend humouring my desire to compete. Except for my competitive friends - they didn’t put anything aside. They just got feisty. Feistier.
On honeymoon, as if I needed proof, I realised I’d definitely married the right man, willing as he was to embark on a two week ‘Honeymoon Olympics’. Early on, we agreed that there would be a points system in place throughout the honeymoon, and whoever ended up with the most points would win a present from the other person, to the tune of £50.
As is my want in any airport, I stocked up on glossy magazines and on the plane, started flicking through Cosmo. Oh, hello, what did I find betwixt the pages of articles about sex and men and jobs and whatnot? Just a very snazzy pair of boots. The kind I HAVE to own. The kind that will make my wardrobe complete. The kind I could spend two weeks competitively thrashing my husband in any given sport to acquire.
The bets hedged, I got to winning. It was easy in the first hotel we stayed in - lavishing us as they did in things I could win at. Table tennis, snooker, checkers, mini golf, who can hold their breath under water the longest. It was almost embarrassing how far ahead I was. Or it would have been, if I didn’t have a ripped out advert of my new boots in my back pocket.
|Gareth losing at checkers.|
|Me winning at holding my breath. Oh, that's just a mountain upon yonder.|
|Gareth losing at snooks.|
When I owned these boots, I thought, I’ll probably do a bit more walking. People will stop me in the street to ask me where I got my boots and I’ll say, you’ll never guess, and they’ll say, no, go on, and I’ll say CLARKS! And they’ll say no! You never! Not Clarks! And I’ll say yup, they are making a come back, one leather bound foot in front of the other.
Fantasies like these drifted through my mind as I sat poolside with my gin tonico’s (that’s Portuguese for gin and tonic, I learned quickly. Who needs a phrasebook when you’ve mastered the essentials).
But it was crass of me. Cape Verde was a poverty stricken, fly ridden, barren dollop of land 300 miles off the west coast of Africa. As we walked down mountains, past ramshackle huts miles from anywhere, I thought about my boots and was disgusted with myself. Cape Verdians, living in huts four hours walk from the nearest shop, don’t beat their husbands at table tennis just so they can have a new pair of boots.
I realised I bought too much stuff, back home. I was a big spender and it was inappropriate, what with all this lopsided distribution of wealth going on in the world.
But, I did really want those boots. Did you look at the picture? They were really lovely.
So I made myself a promise. I’d win the Honeymoon Olympics, pocket the prize, then stop shopping and appreciate the smaller things in life, like my new boots.
Only, there was a hiccup. Gaz started to catch up on the leader-board. We were introduced to a local game called Oware, a game of maths. Suddenly my hand-eye coordination skills counted for nothing. Anyone who was brought up by my father has a propensity to melt pathetically at the mere mention of arithmetic. I blame father. Genius of calculus, he couldn’t understand why we hadn’t inherited his penchant for long multiplication in our heads, while he stood over us and bellowed: ‘WHAT IS 48 x 356 x 12? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T THINK?’
As a result, the very sight of maths makes my brain shut down, like a transformer going from sprightly, all guns blazing robot to, well, a matchbox, at best.
Gaz started to acquire points. It didn’t help that we mostly played when I had gin tonico running through my veins. The boots started to walk away from me. The prize that had once seemed so close, so easy, was disintegrating, fading away like a distant dream.
I didn’t want to buy Gaz a stupid present. £50! But we’d both benefit from the boots! He’d look great by association. I tried to help Gaz see that even if he won, we should probably just get me the boots, but it didn’t wash.
By the last day, he was three points ahead.
But there’s a reason Gaz married me. And there’s a reason I married he. He married me because he thinks it’s cute how much I like winning and how much I like boots. (Probably. Needs citation.) And I married him because he is happier making me happy than he is making himself happy.
Although, the next two points I gained definitely made him happy. That’s right, he gave me two points for a little bit of how's yer father. Well - I did really want those boots.
So then we were even. We reached the airport and I just needed one more point before wheels up to secure the boots, my future happiness, my winter wardrobe sorted.
‘If you dance in the airport, all alone, to no music, for one minute, I’ll give you the final point,’ he said.
Well this taps into a fear for both of us, it was the ultimate challenge. For me, a fear of dancing. Sober. For him, a fear of being judged by unknown members of the public. He’s a low profile kind of guy.
Yet here he was, suggesting I make a fool of us both.
Did I do it? Of course I did. I want boots. The Olympics is the Olympics.
Did I make it to one minute? No. But only because, at 40 seconds, Gaz could bear it no longer. My gyrating, my invented-on-the-spot move that encompassed putting on imaginary boots then doing a boot-wearing moonwalk. My Saturday Night Fever. He stopped me in my tracks, humiliated by the very idea that someone he’d never met and never would meet again might form an opinion of me.
I didn’t care. I got my point. And thus my boots.
Now I am not going to shop anymore, because I saw a house four hours away from any shops at all and I felt bad. But I do need a skirt to go with those boots...