A small administrative difficulty

IN MY ceaseless drive for improved personal productivity and a successful life, I have now acquired a special pad. Its leaves are headed "Things To Do Today" (perhaps they should also do one for chief executives headed "People To Do Today"), and there's a space to tick them off, one by one, giving a sense of achievement and control. Would you like to see my very first list? So you shall.

(1) Post letters.

(2) Defrost fridge.

(3) Get divorce.

(4) Broccoli.

Romish priests among you can tell I am English. We are famous in the confessional for trying to camouflage the dreadful moral cruces of life in a blizzard of veniality. "I snarled at my mother. I stole an extra slice of meat at lunch. I lied to American Express. I missed Mass. I murdered and ate the postman. I neglected my night prayers. I had impure thoughts about a big sloe-eyed Mexican woman."

And why not? One gets through as best one can, and the great mysteries of life can become too overwhelming unless clothed in trivia. You just want to get on with it, instead of fretting over unanswerable questions: how did things get like that? How can I make sure it never happens again? Where does the ice actually come from? Will the two alligator steaks thaw out while the freezer compartment is defrosting, because I don't want to eat them tonight, not both, first of all because I'm on my own and alligator is quite a dense sort of meat, and secondly because I'm not very hungry, don't know why, may be coming down with a bug, maybe something I picked up while I was sorting out the divorce papers, down at the Principal Registry of the Family Division at Somerset House, which was the first purpose-built office block in the country, did you know that? I didn't know that. But... well, you know, hot day, strangers drifting in and out, absolute rabbit-warren, just the sort of place you could pick up a bug if you went down there to get a divorce.

Just an administrative matter. Nothing to it, of course. No big deal. It's not as if one is still in the first crucifying turbulence of anger and despair, nor is it as if one still believes in God, good Heavens no, so there's none of this nonsense about sneaking guiltily out to enlist a crew of civil servants in disentangling a sacred vow. Good Lord, no; and even if one did with absolute sincerity swear to dedicate one's life, blood, estate and time to this cause, well, one can change one's mind, this is 1995, dammit, and one can face the world with all the proud insouciance of a water company chairman, a broker at Lloyd's or a Secretary of State.

Not that one is like that: an ethically bankrupt, snout-in-the-trough fraudster. Just because one gave one's word and is now retracting it, does not mean one is a fraudster. This is a legal process. It has been debated by Members of Parliament, drafted by lawyers, assented to by the Queen. It is moral. It is good.

Just an administrative matter. You go down there and you get the forms. Perfectly reasonable that one party has to petition the other. Why would one want a system where both parties could petition jointly? Just because it's gentler? More courteous to someone you once loved, and lived with for so many years? Nonsense. "Husband against Wife", that's what the Law says, and the Law knows best. Only an immature person would complain. And why should they give you the marriage certificate back at the end of the process? What a sentimental thought. How ridiculous. What do you expect from the Law, for pounds 40? Kindness? Empathy? Grace? Grow up.

So you fill the forms in and cough up and that's that. Three months later, all being... well, there's an end to it. After the slow, helpless decline into incompatibility (so young, you see, like unlabelled cans, neither knowing what the other contained), eros dead on the doorstep and agape weeping in the kitchen; after the ineluctability of separation, the selling-up, the crying in the night, the bitter turning-away from lovers embracing in the street or on the screen; after all that, and then the slow rebuilding of life, the moulding of friendship from the ashes of love; now, a line is being drawn, in rusty ink with a cross-nibbed pen, in the oldest purpose-built office block in the world.

Just an administrative matter. It is, I suppose, efficient, painless and reasonably humane. It is also the right thing to do; we are agreed on that. Why it took nearly eight years after we parted to decide to divorce, I am not so sure. Others seem to snarl, part, fight over the assets and divorce, all in the space of months; then, they "get on with their lives". But do they? Hearing divorced people talk, I am sad at the overwhelming bitterness of their words. Perhaps to learn the lessons takes longer, but I am not even sure what the lessons are. Should we learn compassion for our own imperfectibility? Should we learn that a lone mother hand- in-hand with her child is the true Pieta of our times? Should we learn that human love may seem so frail, but let it change its shape and it need never die?

Just an administrative matter; and no call to lie awake all night, letting go, saying final goodbyes. To the man I once was. To the life I once thought I would have. To the tiny civilisation which every marriage is. No call, either, to feel regret that we didn't give our daughter a conventional, stable home when she was little. That we have now trodden on her brave and secret dream that one day we would reconcile. That I spent five years hurting a good woman, day after day, by living with her while being married to someone else. No need for any of that, nor for a sense that, when dawn finally broke, it marked a new beginning.

Just an administrative matter, after all.

The fridge is fine.

I didn't get the broccoli. !

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific