Friday, 17 May 2013
Juliet’s husband, Philip, who at twenty-eight was set to become one of the youngest-ever partners at Purcell-Houghton (Architectural Consultants) Ltd, came home early one day and announced that he had quit his job.
‘I didn’t know I was going to do it myself till I walked out,’ he said with barely suppressed excitement, pacing the room like he might walk out of there too. ‘I’ll phone Houghton tomorrow and tell them I’m heading off on my own.’
In a daze, Juliet said, ‘But you’ve always said how difficult it is to set up on your own in architecture.’
‘Oh, it’s impossible. But I’m not going to set up on my own in architecture. I’m going to downshift and work in a way that doesn’t harm the planet. I’m going to . . . sell reconditioned bicycles.’
At that Juliet dropped into a chair and gaped up at him. ‘Bicycles?’
This was the last word Juliet uttered for some time. She sat, numbed, as Philip went on to explain his idea for a secondhand bicycle stall at Camden Lock Market.
But she scarcely listened. The real news here seemed to be that her husband was having a mental breakdown. Now that she came to think of it the early warning signs had been there all along, if only she’d had eyes to see them. Oh, what a fool she was to believe Philip’s huge collection of Bakelite voltmeters from the nineteen-thirties was nothing more than an unbelievably ugly way to gather dust. Why hadn’t she seen what those countless dials had always indicated – that Philip had an obsessive personality? She could kick herself now for encouraging him in his new hobby of mending bicycles, even though her motives had been of the highest order, i.e. to wean him off mending voltmeters and get him mending things too big to collect in a flat. It was horribly unfair that she should be punished like this merely for wanting her spare room back.
‘Maybe this does seem like a drastic change of direction,’ Philip said, interrupting the train of her thoughts. ‘Thing is – and I know this must sound crazy – but I’m not excited by architecture anymore. In fact, it just depresses me. Just what am I doing, when you come to think about it?’
‘But that’s what I—’
‘Covering the world with concrete, that’s what. God, I’m so sick of concrete. Aren’t you?’ Juliet did not reply. He wasn’t going to learn her position in respect to concrete that easily. ‘I know, I know,’ he conceded, ‘I should have told you all this before. But still, just because I really want to get out and do something radically different doesn’t mean I will, does it? This has to be a decision we make together.’ Juliet opened her mouth, but before she could speak Philip hastened to finish, ‘And of course if you can’t honestly back me up, then I’ll stay put in architecture. Though anywhere except at Purcell-Houghton. Going back there would be like going back to a morgue. You don’t want me to work in a morgue, do you?’
‘Oh sure, you’re absolutely right – there must be an architectural firm somewhere that isn’t like a morgue. You know, somewhere I can work without feeling that life is passing me by. Because, that’s how I feel, to be honest. Not that I couldn’t put up with life passing me by, if I had to. After all, Jules, when you are so happy in your own career, it makes me feel good, no matter how much mine sucks . . . ’
Posted by Tom Alma at 02:49