Sarah and I soldiered on through another difficult, unhappy and intolerably stressful year. By then, I was sleeping in the single room and could not have been made more unwelcome. Our broken marriage was drawing to a messy conclusion.
By the end of 2010, I finally managed to see sense and had reconciled myself to the need to move out of hell. So one cold Saturday morning, I left, feeling sick at the thought that I was forty-something and had lost everything. As I drove away, the children waved at me from the front door. Even though they did not properly understand what was going on, I could see their confusion.
At the time, I was studying on a postgraduate course and I spent a few days staying near the campus, wondering what on earth to do with my life. It was a terrible time. But I quickly gathered my senses and realised that my children needed me. In fact, I needed them just as much. I was practising Buddhism at a local Buddhist centre, and my Tai Chi teacher there suggested that, while I tried to find somewhere for the girls and me to live, we could move into one of their community houses. He had lived there for many years, and another friend had stayed there with his children. Things progressed quickly and by Christmas 2010, I had arranged shared custody of the girls, and we had moved in. But it was only ever intended as a stop-gap while I tried to find something more permanent.
I was fortunate enough to find a beautiful old coastguard cottage on the outskirts of town that I could just about afford. I got the keys at the end of January 2011. I took the girls to see it. They looked a bit dubious as I led them around. “It’s a bit small, Daddy,” Kara told me. “Cosy is the correct term, I think you’ll find,” I replied, smiling. I then took them upstairs to show them their bedroom. “I don’t like it, Daddy!” cried Abi. I was crestfallen; I’d given them the largest room! “What’s wrong with it?” I asked. “It’s a bit blue, daddy!” she told me. I laughed, relieved. “Would you like it more if it was pink?” I ventured. “Yes daddy, ” came the reply.
So that weekend I asked a few friends if, in return for Curry, they would help me paint the upstairs bedrooms of my new home. About half a dozen couldn’t resist a free Vegetable Korma, so by the end of Sunday, we had turned my pink bedroom blue and the girls’ blue bedroom pink. On Monday evening, I again showed the girls around. “Do you like your bedroom now?” I asked both Kara and Abi. “We love it, Daddy!” they replied, in unison. “Thank God,” I thought. Never doubt the power of pink.
Kara, Abi and I live there to this day. We love it. It’s only small, really, but life’s often a compromise, and anyway, if you ignore the main road, industrial estate, power station and pump house, it does have sea views. And it has confirmed to me that prosperity transcends materialism; it’s much more a matter of taking care over how we live our lives and ensuring the happiness of those dear to us. Love really does conquer all. Besides, for a single dad with joint custody of two small children, it’s simply perfect.
Divorce followed soon after we moved in. I had struggled to let go, but now I was free, I had seen sense. So when the legal papers arrived, formally acknowledging the end of my disastrous marriage, I had a few drinks to celebrate.