Tony Parsons: Man And Wife

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Tony Parsons Man And Wife
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    Man And Wife
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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Harry Silver returns to face life in the "blended family." A wonderful new novel about modern times, which can be read as a sequel to the million selling Man and Boy, or completely on its own. Man and Wife is a novel about love and marriage – about why we fall in love and why we marry; about why we stay and why we go. Harry Silver is a man coming to terms with a divorce and a new marriage. He has to juggle with time and relationships, with his wife and his ex-wife, his son and his stepdaughter, his own work and his wife's fast-growing career. Meanwhile his mother, who stood so steadfastly by his father until he died, is not getting any younger or stronger herself. In fact, everything in Harry's life seems complicated. And when he meets a woman in a million, it gets even more so… Man and Wife stands on its own as a brilliant novel about families in the new century, written with all the humour, passion and superb storytelling that have made Tony Parsons a favourite author in over thirty countries.

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Tony Parsons

Man And Wife

The second book in the Harry Silver series, 2002

For my father

part one: the man of her dreams

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

My son comes to my wedding.

He’s my best man. That’s what I tell him. ’You’re my best man, Pat. He looks pleased. He has never been a best man before. Not that he makes a smirking speech about what I got up to with sheep during my wild youth, or tries to get off with the bridesmaid, or even gets to look after the rings. He’s only six years old.

So Pat’s best man duties are largely ceremonial. But I mean it when I tell him that he is my best man.

He’s the best of me, my son, and this special day would feel hollow if he wasn’t here.

In a few days’ time, when the wedding cake has gone and the new married life has begun, and the world starts getting back to normal, some teacher will ask Pat what he did at the weekend.

I went to my dad’s wedding,’ he will say.

And although he doesn’t tell me any more than that, I can guess at the knowing laughter that unguarded, innocent remark, endlessly replayed, will cause in the staff room. How they will chuckle. How they will sigh. A sign of the times, my son’s teachers will think. Children spending the weekend watching one of their parents get spliced. What a world, eh?

I know that my father would have felt the same way, although the old man wouldn’t have found it remotely funny.

Even in his last years, when he was finally becoming resigned to what modern men and women do to their lives, and to the lives of their children, I know that my dad really wouldn’t have wanted his grandson to spend his Saturday afternoon watching me get married.

A nice kickabout in the park would have been all the excitement he needed.

But I think they are all wrong – my son’s teachers, my father, anyone who thinks that the first time should be considered more special than the last time.

Placing no other above thee…

What can be bad about placing no other above thee? How can another try at getting it right ever be wrong? Unless you’re Elizabeth Taylor.

As the years pass, and I start to see more of my father staring at me from the mirror, I find myself more often than not in agreement with his views on the lousy modern world.

But you were wrong about this one, Dad.

We all deserve a second chance to find the love we crave, we all warrant another go at our happy ending, one final attempt to turn our life into something from one of those songs you loved so much.

You know.

One of the old songs.

It’s a small wedding. Tiny, even. Just a few close friends, what’s left of our families – our mothers, our children, her sisters, my dad’s brothers, my mum’s brothers – and the two of us.

Me, and the most beautiful girl in the world.

And I can’t stop looking at her.

Can’t take my eyes off that fabulous face.

Can’t get over how wonderful she looks today, smiling in the back of our black cab, making our way to that little room on Rosebery Avenue where we are to be married.

I feel like I am seeing Cyd for the very first time. Does every man feel this way? Even grooms with plain brides? Does every man feel that his bride is the most beautiful girl in the world? Probably.

With all my heart, I want the best for her. / want this day to be perfect, and it chews me up because I know that it can never be perfect,

There’s no father to stand by her side, and no father to welcome her into a new family.

Our dads were both working men from the old school, strong and gentle and unsentimental, and those tough men from that tough generation had hearts and lungs that proved surprisingly fragile.

Our fathers went years before their time, and I know that we will miss them today, today more than ever.

And there are other reasons why there will be a few clouds hanging over this perfect day.

There will be no church bells for us, no hymns, no doting vicar to join us together, and tell us when we are allowed to kiss. Because no church would have us. Too many miles on the clock, you see. Too much life lived.

I thought that I would regret that too. The lack of the sanctified. I thought that would be a definite damper on the proceedings.

But when she takes my hand, somehow it doesn’t matter any more, because I can seme something sacred in the small, secular room with the women in their hats, the men in their suits, the children in what my mum would call their Sunday best.

Everybody smiling, happy for us, white lilies everywhere, their scent filling the air.

There’s no place more sacred than this place.

And if anyone is blessed, then we are blessed.

A small wedding. It’s what we both wanted. Making official what we have known from very near the start – that we are building a life together.

And to tell the world – the best is yet to come. What could be more hopeful than that? What could be more right? More sacred?

If I am honest, there’s a large chunk of me that is relieved to be avoiding the traditional wedding.

I am glad to be skipping so much of it – from the dearly beloved pieties of the church to the mildewed graveyard waiting just beyond the shower of confetti to the multi-generational disco where drunken uncles wave their arms in the air to ’Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’.

Goodbye to all that.

Just a simple ceremony joining together two complicated lives.

Lives that are not just beginning, lives that already have a history. And you can see the happiest part of those lives, those histories, in the two small children who stand with their grandmothers in the front row of what passes for the congregation.

A solemn little girl in a long yellow dress, primly clutching a bouquet of white flowers to her chest, a child with her mother’s wide-set eyes, dark hair and lovely face.

And a slightly younger boy in a bow tie and frilly dress shirt, no jacket – what’s he done with his jacket? He was wearing it the last time I looked-who can’t match the girl’s show of unsmiling formality, can’t even get close to it, so he grins shyly and shuffles inside his brand-new shoes, looking as though this is his very first time out of trainers.

Peggy and Pat.

Her daughter and my son.

My beautiful boy.

Pat is holding my mother’s hand. And as the registrar asks about the rings, I notice that my boy’s face is changing.

The smooth, sweet roundness of the baby and the toddler he once was is dissolving to be replaced by sharper, more angular lines. Time is moving on, slipping by when I wasn’t looking, and my boy is starting to look handsome rather than pretty. Growing up, every day.

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