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Clement's Corner: Simon And Janine

Owen Clement reveals the chasm which both divides and unites a married couple.


It was at the opening of an exhibition at the National Gallery that I first saw Janine. She seemed to glide across the floor. I thought she was the most striking woman I had ever seen. I was captivated by her presence.

“Who is that?” I asked the gallery curator, Horace Clarton, who was accompanying me.

As he looked up she caught his eye, smiling and waving.

“That's my secretary. I’ll introduce you if you like.'' Taking my arm, he guided me towards her.

“Janine, I’d like you to meet our new patron, Simon Fitzsimmons. Simon this is Janine Carpenter.''

He then turned away to speak to other members of our group.

I thought her smile guarded though friendly enough as she held out her hand. She soon lost interest in me however, as she and the others followed Horace around, closely examining the paintings, trying to get him to indicate his nomination of the winning entry.

As I listened to him it seemed that the weirder the painting, the better chance it stood of taking the prize. I was content to stay close to Janine and listen to her husky velvety voice. I knew from that moment on that she was the woman who would one day become my wife.

Six months later we were married, and next month is our tenth anniversary of that event. Our lives have been mostly without argument. I know she wants a kid. I say to her "Think of what it will do to your figure. All those stretch marks. And of course it would interfere with our travelling.''

So far we have visited most of the major cities in Europe, and some in South East Asia. This September we are off to the Eastern United States. It’ll be her first time. The autumn colours in Vermont will take her breath away. We’ll also visit Las Vegas. Everyone has to see Las Vegas at least once. It’s a fantastic example of why America is so successful. I know she’ll love the vibrant atmosphere of New York. She says she’s not that keen on going, but once she gets there and attends a concert in Carnegie Hall, sees a Broadway show and visits the Guggenheim Art Museum she’ll be stoked, for sure. I can’t wait for her to meet my friends and colleagues who live there, and for them to meet her. “Just think” I told her, “we may be able to bring back a major abstract work of art.''

That wouldn't be my choice, but if it makes her happy that’s all that matters.''

It’s hard to get her going sometimes, but when she does, she loves it.


Simon and I are the true examples of the attraction of opposites. He’s not happy unless he’s doing something or going somewhere. At times I wonder if he sees our home as an expensive holiday house. We spend so little time here. The only reason we keep it is because I insist on having a home base. It is interesting to see all those exotic places, but I get so sick of airports, security checks, hotel rooms, restaurant food. To be at home wearing comfortable jeans and scuffs, eating plain food, pottering around in my garden, that's where where I am happiest.

I must say that I am interested in going to museums, galleries and the historic sites. And Simon does seem happy to accompany me, but, after twenty minutes or so he’ll say, “Seen enough, Darling?” In a few weeks we are off to America. I know that after we have covered only one small section of the Guggenheim Museum, which is something that I really am keen to see, he’ll be ready for us to shoot off somewhere else. He doesn’t know it yet, but I have been in touch with one of my friends there. I’ll use the excuse of calling on her on my own. We’ll be able to spend time examining that wonderful building and its equally wonderful collection of artworks.

Simon is very generous but, he never carries any money with him. I have to make certain I have lots of cash to fork out whenever he needs it. I also have to to reimburse his friends. I insist that they keep a tally of what he owes them because he never does. It’s not that he’s mean. It’s just that money means so little to him.

In some ways Simon is the child I’ll never have.

© Clement 2006


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