24: Slap Down

31 January 2011

The end of 2010 brought a period of calm. Everything was coming together: I’d recovered from surgery; the manuscript was pristine; I’d had a holiday; family problems were beginning to fall away; work was under control; and Dad was bedded down in his new bungalow – healthy, happy and overcome with Mozart.

I afforded myself a sociable December, attending a dinner party, meeting an old friend, going to a couple of get-togethers and hitting the town on New Year’s Eve. That’s when I saw Clare Smith.

Clare is a long-time buddy from the glory years. She’s direct, no-nonsense, from Middlesbrough and married to a massive northern bloke called ‘Big’ Steve. She’s the kind of girl who tells it as it is. Doesn’t mince her words.

‘Your problem, Pete, is that you seem to think when you’ve finished your book everything will go back to how it was before. You appear to be under the – mistaken – impression that your friends will still be there, waiting for you to return in triumph, all la de bloody da,’ she waved her hands while rolling her eyes at me, ‘and act as though nothing has changed.

‘Well I’m telling you, Pete, that isn’t going to happen. Things have changed. It’s time you realised relationships are a two-way street. They require investment. You cannot spend your life keeping us updated by ruddy email. When you come back, you may find that we’ve all moved on. Because if you believe things will just go back to the way they used to be, then I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.’

She had a point. I told her that I was glad she’d talked straight with me. Then I lamely offered mitigating circumstances to justify my conduct – pointing out that I’d come out of my shell quite a bit during 2010, but that I had a girlfriend now and what time I spent away from my projects, I spent with her.

Forty-eight hours later, Charlotte dumped me for not spending enough time with her. She said that I was always pushing, that there was never any space, that there was never any time to just be and that it was all too much. I characterise my behaviour as practical, focussed and solution-oriented. She calls it ruthless.

This was unexpected. But then, she just wanted to be the centre of my life. That was fair.

What lessons to draw from all this?

To implore those miffed off at me to have faith. To assure them that I know what I’m doing, that it won’t always be this way but that, right now, it has to be this way. Then draw strength in the depths of this long, cold winter and push on through.

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14 Responses to “24: Slap Down”

  1. Jim Says:

    Peter you do have a sort of ruthless quality about you along with every person who has ever done any great thing. Single minded focus on a goal is good for the person achieving it, always difficult on the people around them. I’ve always admired that about you, but wouldn’t want that quality myself. Luckily I am not a person in your life but rather one inspired by your life so I don’t pay the same price they do.

    At the end of the day it’s all about the life you want.

  2. Lindy Says:

    Just carry on with what you’re doing Pete, you’ll be fine, chin up, and those who love you, all your friends who love you, will still be there – you might have to treat them to dinner though! ; ) x x

  3. Sue Says:

    Hey Pete
    Whilst Clare might be right in someways, in others we have all naturally moved on anyway. We’re at that age where we get married, move away, have kids and find a new path in life. This is a natural process so even if you were about more, the chances are you would only see some people a few times a year at weddings and Bar Mitzvah! People need to be focussed on what they want in life and to where they want to go. You have to do what is most important to you. No-one will change what they want to do just to spend more time out on a Saturday night with you. I say carry on and keep going Pete. Stay focussed and when you need friends, you’ll always find some willing to listen and to be there when needed.

  4. Joanne Taylor-Horne Says:

    Pete we’ve all moved on…..I’ve had TWO kids since the “glory days”……I have confidence you will join us in the next chapter…..I don’t ever doubt you thought it would be like walking straight back in to the party. We love you….Darren has man love for you…..Scarlett calls you Pete Baker NOT Pete, and adores you; Hollie will no doubt call you Pete Baker too!!! There’s a statement right there!

  5. Joanne Taylor-Horne Says:

    …..Like you said, this won’t be forever…..it’s a transient period in your life and can only be achieved with dedication. Support will come from those who understand and can live with your abscence whilst you do what you have to do. xxxx

  6. Peter de la Marche Says:

    “and life will continue, slow, laborious and happy”. Chechov, The Three Sisters (Tuzenbach).

    Just publish and be damned – and okay a little money to boot – she’ll be back, you’re a fantastic fella.

    Lots of luv – Pipsy

    Ps. I’m glad Reg is okay

  7. Tracy Stanislaus Says:

    Morning Petey,

    I say just get on with it, stay focused and remember we all love you and appreciate what your doing.

    Love ya! :-)

  8. Sarah Webb (was King) Says:

    Ahh, Pete. Every activity and every relationship requires a different amount of time to flourish and be successful (according to the criteria that you and others set). No amount of effort will ever give you more than 24 hours in a day or enough time for everything you want to do and every relationship you want to maintain. All you can do is make a choice based on what is most important to you. The people who understand and empathise with your choices will still be around for you; some of them have already responded to your blog – those that don’t will drift away. I think the only way any of us know whether we have made the right choices is when we assess the outcomes at the end of the day. Like one of your previous correspondents, I admire your drive and am inspired by it but make different choices for myself – possibly due to a different set of weaknesses!!

    PS: I’m responding to your blog rather than writing job applications which is what I should be doing….

  9. Big Sis Says:

    Well I always feel you give me enough time dearest brother. I know you’re there and your nieces think you’re brilliant and often talk about you (well Martha doesn’t talk she just shouts a lot but I think the sentiment is there). Because of you Polly is now into Star Wars (“I’m not allowed to see the film but I am allowed to read the annual because Uncle Peter bought it for me”) so really I think your work here is done. Luv ya, you rock, always have done (except when you used to beat me up), always will xx

  10. Rebecca Says:

    Hey Pete

    I wholeheartedly, but respectfully, disagree with Clare – friends are people that understand that you live your life and they live theirs. Friends support each other when they need it, regardless of how much time passes. Like Sue said, friends that you would only see a few times a year can still be friends that are there for you if or when situations change. So much has happened since you started on this road – and if I am honest I think it would be sad if you were still doing the same old stuff that we were all doing back then, so why would your friends still be! EVERYONE has surely moved on somewhere or somehow! What you have done makes for a fantastic friend that I talk about with others (and say they will one day meet!!!) – it all makes you the person that you are. Kai also calls you Peter Baker, which does (I agree with Jo) speak volumes!

    It is cool when people speak directly to their friends (cause many don’t!) and it often isn’t nice to hear but is mostly good to hear too. I have found that some people need more than others in a friendship or relationship, and some need more than you can give and still be you. I’d say its good to find this out early on.

    However far away – I will always love you
    Adele (and Robert Smith)

  11. Clare Johnson Says:

    I agree with Clare. I also think you’ve got some sort of Messiah complex. I mean, look at the image at the top of this page for Heaven’s sake (literally)!! And FYI my life isn’t a ‘long, cold winter’ without you, but you wouldn’t know that as we haven’t met up for a beer! You see the problem?

    All in good faith, of course.

    Clare xx

  12. Clare Johnson Says:

    P.S. Sorry to hear you got dumped.

  13. Mark Cube Says:

    Don’t hate the player, hate tha game!!

  14. Mark Snare Says:


    Typically I find this blog chimes quite well, with solid subjects dealt with bravely. However this post is sickly, self pitying and almost certainly designed to trigger the outpouring of encouraging back slaps is has.
    You paint Clare in a poor light as your conference was held well into the night on NYE, and though Clare has the delivery of a grizzly bear, I think the affection with which her passage was no doubt wrapped is lost. And you both live in East London, and have telephones, I’m sure.

    On being “dumped”: good, at your age if it’s not funky then thats a mercy, pull the trigger, but why the pubescent terminology? I was under the impression you were a writer?

    In summary, if this trend of concentric self absorption continues, I’ll be unsubscribing, as the point to me is that in 1000 years no one will care, but you may, just may, be able to download “The Jolly Pilgrim” straight from http://.amazon.earth straight into your brain, but only if you get on with it, here and now.

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