Surprise! Holidays can lead to rows, mainly due to expectations. Of what – having a nice time? Or the gap between hope and expectation. What do couples on holiday row about? The same stuff they row about at home – sex, money, food, tidiness, only with added heat, alcohol and togetherness.
C and I don’t live together so two weeks together in Spain is always going to be tricky in terms of Row Potential. The Girl is with her dad – an ideal opportunity to have a really adult holiday full of culture, food and free form swearing over my inability to read a map.
I add up our differences. I slurp my coffee (apparently) and he snores (loudly). I pull his underwear up to his waist and laugh, which for some strange reason he finds incredibly irritating. I am emotional, he is much more logical. He lives in fear of eating in one restaurant, burdened with the chilling knowledge of there being a better restaurant round the corner. I can’t read maps in the car (he would argue that I can’t read maps anywhere) but it’s down to late onset car sickness. I am, however, often asked for directions, so I must LOOK like I know where I’m going. He is very sociable and I’m much more of a loner. We both, however, love food and find the idea of eating just for fuel, pointless. It’s one of the many things I love about him. Not a hearts and flowers man but he will hang a mirror, put up shelves without fuss and take my little girl to Bocca di Lupo. ‘I liked the cheese balls and sausages’ she says after a feast of mozzarella in carroza and buristo.
We fly to Gibraltar and visit my sister who lives in Sotogrande. He gets on easily with her and does some DIY round her flat We spend time in Seville and then go to Granada to visit the Alhambra Palace, built for the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th century. The heat is in the nineties. We visit Jerez where he goes on a guided tour of a sherry factory, and I sit in a café, exploring the joys of drinking café con leche and people watching. And we have a series of very stupid rows.
The Swordfish Row
The older parts of Seville comprise small, twisty streets. Their narrowness creates a burrow of shadows which keeps them tolerably cool, particularly when the temperature was in the nineties. We are looking for a particular tapas bar Th Guardian once reviewed in 1992. C is marching ahead and I am trailing, blood sugar plummeting. I am used to this scenario because in 99% of cases we do find the place, it’s full of Spanish locals and the food is fabulous. But not tonight. It’s after 10pm, it’s the beginning of August when a lot of restaurants close, and I am starving. There is a place in the middle of the square, and people are eating big plates of food. Good enough for me but it’s touristy. I put my foot down.
C sits twitching and we order swordfish. It’s not thick enough (apparently) and is both overcooked,and overpriced. Meanwhile a guitarist starts wailing some sub-Gypsy Kings dirge, rapidly followed by another man walking from table to table, loudly flogging fans. ‘This is not the kind of place the locals go to,’ says C irritably. I feel I’m being got at for wanting to eat at a ‘lesser’ place. C insists this is untrue, he just hates being ripped off. It is soupily hot, even at 10.30pm. The food is a few euros more than usual, but it’s *gritted teeth* fine. But I feel soured by his tinge of disapproval. This is the flipside of eating with someone who really cares about food. And is a queeny food snob. ‘This swordfish is delicious,’ I snarl, chewing determindly.
I always tip, if the service is good and am a great believer in the Waiter/Waitress rule i.e. if your date is rude to service staff then he or she is a bad person. Yes I was a waitress once. It’s hard work, the quality of the food is not your domain and when you are carrying fifteen plates and the douche on table 3 whines, ‘Where’s the salad I asked for?’ it’s hard not to reply, ‘Stuck up my arse you stupid fat fuck,’ instead of ‘I’ll get it straight away Sir.’
Ooh that’s better.
C gives me a look for overtipping. This riles me so I add another euro. Not really a row, more A Moment.
Sweary Sex Row
We’re leaving the hotel in Seville, and I promise C certain favours if he manages to drive back to Sotogrande without swearing. He doesn’t even manage to get out of the carpark. So I let that one pass and give him one more chance. He still doesn’t get out of the carpark.
Twisty Route Row
I really hate driving on the right so C does all the driving. Driving from Granada to Sotogrande, we are trying to avoid the toll roads which means an alternative route over the mountains and acres of olive trees. Stinging blue skies, scorched earth and very twisty roads. After an hour of this I throw up lunch at the side of the road.
Poor C tries to distract me by pointing out interesting land marks but as anyone who has been miserably car sick will testify, all you can think of is the toxic churn in the stomach as it slowly builds up again. We finally emerge from Witch Mountain, only to see the only way of getting home is through another toll road. I point this out which blows the lid on hours of repressed anger and nausea. We hiss and snipe at each other. He says I keep track of his mistakes. I say he has a chip of ice in him. Sweat trickles down my nose in the ensuing silence. ‘I’m doing my best’ he says and I feel terrible. We kiss and he doesn’t flinch at my double sick breath.
The Jon Ronson Row
We are in Jerez in a sleek modern hotel, The Itaca (reviewed on Trip Advisor) which overlooks a lime grove. I’m in love with Spanish café con leche and their way of life. It’s not just about having a snooze after lunch, it’s more about taking some time during the day to kick back and have a pointless row about reading material. I’m lying on the bed with the very excellent So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, and reading out the part where Justine Sacco’s life blows up after one ill-judged tweet. C says she is in PR and should have known better. ‘If I were her boss, I’d have fired her too.’ I think this cold and helpfully remind him of the unfortunate remarks he’s made in the past, which if overheard by an angry or vengeful person could have resulted with his life imploding. This conversation swiftly descends into the ways in which we annoy each other.
‘You slurp your coffee,’ he snaps (too quickly for my liking) and when I tell you something you go ‘Really? Like you don’t believe me. And you wince when I drive.’
I bite back, with good reason. ‘Ok’ I say, and pause as though I’m trying to think how to respond when in fact that list has been in my head for a while. ‘You complain about the underhand methods used to catch speeding drivers . . . while you’re actually speeding.’
He laughs – the most unpompous man in the world. I adore him.
Bitch Face Row
A peaceful hotel in Seville, designed the Moroccan way with courtyards, plants, throws and dark blue tiles. I am reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Set in 1920, Waters lush detail is a salutary reminder of how much we take for granted, i.e. taking a bath without risking suffocation or an explosion due to a dodgy boiler. ‘Are you ok?’ C asks. I say that I’m fine. He says that I’m very hard to read. It’s apparently because of the way my face ‘falls’ when I’m concentrating. For a start, ‘falls’ in relation to a face is not a cheering description. ‘Are you saying I have a resting bitch face?’ I squawk. ‘Yes,’ he says. I don’t speak to him for half an hour. I don’t think he notices.
What’s the stupidest row you’ve ever had?