Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Shameless Corruption

I have some news for followers of the adventures of my wife, Caroline. Shameless Corruption, the third novel in the Shameless series, will be published by Steam eReads in June this year. The publishers also handled the first two novels, Shameless Ambition and Shameless Exposure , all available as reasonably priced ebooks from Amazon . Each novel stands alone  and you don't have to read them in any particular order. But Ambition and Exposure are a useful, lightly fictionalised background to the current predicament Caroline and I find ourselves in. If you want to experience the full impact of Shameless Corruption, you are advised to get reading.

As I have hinted in previous posts, Caroline and I are having problems with our relationship. Between you and me, I'm not sure we will still be living together by the end of the World Cup tournament in Brazil. The 'D' word is in the air. My instinct is not to talk about it, but the counsellor at Marital Solutions said it would be good if I discussed things more with trusted friends. I know I can trust you, dear reader, but please bear in mind this is only one side of the story. Caroline would probably explain it differently.

Neither of us have been saints during the four years we have been married (to which a quick glance at the books above will attest). But when Caroline was promoted to Finance Director of Monsaint Medical Instruments, it was not the job either of us expected. We both thought she would be crunching numbers at their HQ in Stratford, East London. But Ivan, the former FD of Monsaint, who got the top job, wouldn't let go of the numbers, and has used Caroline as a kind of deputy chief executive, sending her on all the trips abroad he didn't want to make himself. Monsaint has operations in Europe and South America, and next on the agenda is China and the Far East, so I have hardly seen Caroline for three days in a row over the last six months, and when I do, she is 'too tired' for the things most married people do. My work is based in London, a commute from where we live in Guildford, and I generally get my clients to come to me because I work in the London courts. I'm just saying it's not me who is away all the time.

When Caroline gets tired she struggles to control her tendency to pick faults with others, i.e. me. I try not to accuse her of nagging, but that is what it is. For years she has complained about me going to football matches (Manchester United - there's no need to feel sorry for me) and having modest wagers, nothing more than a hundred pounds, on the outcome of certain matches and the occasional horse race.

So it's a little ironic, isn't it, that she called me the other day from Italy, where she was meant to be renegotiating Monsaint's bank loans, to say she was staying another few days to learn how to play high-stakes poker from her 'friend' and casino owner, Prince Lippi?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Always Read the Brochure

I didn’t dare risk revealing my ignorance by asking a question. I was still wondering what I had been so honest about in the profile that Caroline must have completed for me. Was it the football or the jealousy? Or did I have a failing of which I was not yet aware?
“No? So let’s start with what matters. How long is it since you last had sex? With each other, I mean.”
Caroline stared straight ahead. “I think it was when we were on holiday in the Caribbean. Last October.”
“Is that your recollection, Robert?”
I looked at Caroline. “What about that time in December you came home drunk from the Monsaint Christmas party?”
“If you say we did, then we did. But it’s not proper sex if I don’t remember it, is it?”
“Let’s not worry about details,” said Valerie. “It’s clear from what both of you are saying that your sexual relationship has ground to a halt. You’ve both been very brave to admit that by coming here. Can you tell me, one at a time, why you think that has happened? Caroline first.”
“I think… Of course we’re both very busy at work and the opportunities have been limited.”
“Go on.”
“I think Robert’s gone off me. He’s more interested in Manchester United. He keeps making hurtful comments about my appearance, my weight.”
“What comments?” I said, but got no further. Valerie told me to wait my turn.
“Go on, Caroline.”
“Robert makes no allowance for the pressures of my job. He thinks I swan off abroad for the fun of it when actually I’m working really, really hard. He expects me to jump into bed the minute I get back home but I need time to relax first.”
Valerie nodded. “I understand. Now you, Robert. How do you explain the recent lack of sex in your relationship with Caroline?”
I looked at Caroline and wondered if I dared tell the truth, that I was wracked by a crippling jealousy, the image of Caroline in the arms of another man. The lack of opportunity was a smokescreen; it hadn’t stopped us in the first few years of our marriage. I had no idea which comments about Caroline’s appearance she had misunderstood. I thought she was drop-dead gorgeous. The trouble was, so did certain other men in her life.
“I can’t explain it.” Well, I couldn’t. I couldn’t explain how she had allowed herself to be seduced by an old boyfriend. Not just seduced, but painted naked in loving detail for the whole world to see. How she brushed off my concerns as me being old-fashioned, and how even now she went all misty-eyed when recalling those evenings in his studio in Whitechapel. Valerie fixed me with her sympathetic smile and told me not to worry; that most men find it hard to talk about their difficulties in the bedroom.
“No, you misunderstand. I don’t have difficulties in the bedroom, I…”
“I mean, everything works all right. It’s just that Caroline’s mind seems to be somewhere else. She doesn’t seem interested.”
“I see. Thank you, Robert. Thank you Caroline. I know this isn’t easy. But as you know from the literature, we don’t focus too much on analysing the past. The most important thing is the present and the future. And we know from our research that the key is to re-establish physical intimacy, starting from today. But not with each other. First we must rule out any physical, organic or behavioural problems. Are you happy to proceed with the session?” Caroline nodded. I wished, not for the first time, that I’d read the brochure, but I nodded assent.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Caroline drags me to marital therapy

The trees on Fulham Broadway had a sprinkle of white blossom, but it was with little hope that I climbed the stairs behind Caroline up to the first floor office of the Marital Solutions Counselling and Therapy Clinic. The place had been recommended to Caroline by her friend Xena, and Caroline had dragged me there for what she described as my last chance.

We were met by a receptionist in a white coat and directed towards a waiting room, the walls decorated with posters about erectile dysfunction. Clinic literature showing naked couples having air-brushsed sex was scattered on occasional tables beside the pale green chairs. Thankfully we were the only couple in the waiting room, but I still felt I had to talk in a whisper.

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Caroline? In my experience talking about things makes things worse, not better.”
“According to Xena, it’s not just about talking. They have male and female therapists who help you overcome problems with a physical or emotional cause. They say they can get you started again.”
“Couldn’t we go to an expensive hotel for the weekend? Wouldn’t a couple of days in bed with room service do the trick?”
“And what happened when we tried to find a weekend in between my business trips? You said you were going to a football match.”
“It wasn’t any football match. It’s the one that will decide the season.”
“You don’t have any insight, do you? We have to do something now or there’s no point in living together any longer.”
“I don’t know how you can say…” The sense of injustice that surged in me every time Caroline spoke was thankfully stemmed by the appearance of a woman with a mass of frizzy hair held up with a colourful headband.
“Good morning,” she announced, like she really believed it. “My name is Sheila Mavistock and I will be your counselor for the initial diagnostic sessions. You must be Caroline and Robert? I’ve so been looking forward to meeting you. You sound like wonderful people from your profiles.” Profiles? I didn’t recall completing a profile. Caroline gave me the look which said, Don’t say anything.
Sheila gave me a warm smile. “It’s unusual for a man to be so honest. That’s a good sign. I’m sure we’ll be able to help. Come this way.”  She led us to a room which was a cross between a lounge and a library. Shelves with psychology books lined the walls, heavy curtains framed the windows, and musty old sofas completed the look of Carl Jung’s study. She pointed us to a deep red damask three-seater sofa. We sat at either end.
“Time is precious so I’m going to assume you’ve read about our programme. It’s designed for busy, successful people and is proven to work by our own dedicated research team. The references are in the brochure at the back. Do you have any questions before we start?”

For more Shameless stories go to My author page

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

How Strong is your Relationship?

"Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr Fanshaw?" Danny, my after-work swift drink partner from accounts, often sprinkles his observations with lines from Dylan. It is his way of showing concern, even though he disguises it heavily with laughter and sarcasm. He had picked up on my worries about Caroline.

To reassure me further, he explained how people who work with numbers all the time have to let their hair down occasionally and it doesn't usually mean anything. Judging by the average length of his relationships, in Danny's case it never means anything. I'm not a worrier by nature, but I had made the mistake of completing a 'How Strong is your Relationship?' quiz in a glossy women's mag while waiting for my annual check-up at the dentist. I scored 'mostly Bs', which, according to Hermione Glissop, means my marriage to Caroline is hanging by a thread and I must take positive action immediately.

So when Caroline came home for the weekend, briefly interrupting her visits to Monsaint's business operations across Europe, I took Step One, which, according to Hermione, is to discuss your worries with your partner without accusing them of anything, thus avoiding 'the cycle of defensiveness.'

"I'm worried about you, Caroline."
"No you're not. You're worried about the World Cup tickets."
"The tickets would be fantastic. But what I'm really looking forward to is seeing a bit of Brazil, with you."
"The bit of Brazil in the vicinity of Maracana Stadium?"
"Yes, of course, that as well. I just think it would do us good to spend a bit more time together."
"I'm not sure how much time I'll have. You know I've got to visit the distribution centre in Sao Paulo? That's my justification for being over there."
"This is why I'm worried about you. You don't seem to have time for anything but your job."
"But I love my job, Robert. At least I do when Ivan will let me get on and actually bloody do it. Which reminds me, I'm going to have to go back to Italy next week. Von Wolfswinkle is over in Europe and it's an opportunity to open discussions with him about refinancing the company's loans."
I sighed. "Let's not talk about next week, you've only just got home."

I steered the conversation away from work and mentioned my visit to the dentist. I told Caroline about the magazine relationship quiz and that it said I needed to work on my marriage. You see, I do sometimes take responsibility.
"You don't believe that rubbish, do you?" said Caroline. Five minutes later she had the quiz page up on her tablet.
"Robert, can you pour me another glass of wine while I answer these questions?"
Five minutes later. "Do you remember Xena? Well she was telling me about these people in Fulham who help busy couples re-establish their relationships. I think I'd better make us an appointment."

For more adventures with my wife Caroline see

Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.