In the March edition of Psychologies magazine there is a feature called ‘Women and the Men in their Lives’. It’s includes two-thirds of a page on me and Hagar. It was conducted by the very delightful, freelance journalist, Viki Wilson. The interview has been quite heavily edited down so I have decided to blog the uncut version and then I don’t have to think of anything new to write for a snipsy bit – woo hoo!
Before you met Hagar, had you tended to have good relationships, fleeting, or disastrous?
Yes, all of the above. My relationship history didn’t follow a pattern. It was pretty much a mix of good, fleeting, and disastrous. I had sustained relationships of over a couple of years, one night stands, big mistakes, fleeting liaisons, middle of the road meetings; a very eclectic relationship experience. What was significant before I met Hagar, was that in my head I had decided that I wasn’t messing around anymore and that I did want to have a monogamous relationship. I had enough of playing the field.
What was your general romantic history and how old were you when you met him?
I was 26 when I met him. I had maybe 2 longer term relationships of a couple of years. I worked seven summer seasons, and for two of them was with the same guy, and we traveled together as well, but I asked him if he ever saw us getting married, and he said no, so I broke up with him. What’s the point of playing house with a guy, when there was so much fun to be had. I was young and enjoying myself. Until I decided I was ready to be monogamous, I was a good time girl. I have never been particularly bothered by romance. I wouldn’t put it on my list of what makes a man special is how romantic he is. If he gave me screaming orgasms, now that was more the criteria I was interested in, especially if he was good looking and made me laugh too.
I had just broken my leg on a speed boat, watching the start of the 1998 Whitbread Around The World Yacht Race just south of the Needles. I was in lust with a yachtsman, called Jan Dekker, and I had just watched him sail away into the sunset, and then about 30 minutes later, I snapped my fibula and tibia and my life just fell apart from that moment onwards. I was freelancing in PR, and was in the middle of securing a book commission. As I couldn’t walk, I had to give up my digs and ended up living in my gran’s spare room in York. My friend Tash lived in Edinburgh and she said to cheer me up that she knew this helicopter pilot, called Hagar, that she used to go out with and she would set me up on a blind date with him. It was a crazy time. Hagar, was actually a navigator flying Puma helicopters in Northern Ireland, he worked three weeks on based at RAF Aldergrove and then had one week off. He was touring Scotland on his motorbike, and Tash contacted him and he arranged to come and visit, and also agreed to have a blind date.
I was sat in Tash’s tiny kitchen, in an old Victorian terraced property, in Stockbridge with my plastered leg, resting on a chair and Hagar burst into the room, like Captain Flashheart from Blackadder, “Hello dream date,” he bombastically declared. It was very surreal. We were both really nervous. We ended up going clubbing to Poonanana’s on Frederick Street. It was a whirlwind night and when we had our first kiss in the nightclub, there was literally ‘thunder and lightening and the earth moved’. It was a profound experience.
As the relationship progressed, did he live up to your expectation of how men usually behave in relationships. For example, some women find that men are attentive and spontaneous at first, and then become less so as the relationship becomes more stable?
We were constantly separated because of the military so our courting period was conducted on the telephone, and writing to each other. It was really romantic because we yearned to be together and never could be. I think the enforced separations that military life imposes on you means that you relationship is constantly dynamic because you don’t know what is happening one minute to the next.
Our relationship has never been stable. Military life doesn’t allow you to have a stable relationship. Hagar is a hopeless romantic, much more than I am. In fact out of the two of us, I am the one who is less attentive. He wants balloons, banners, bells and whistles every time he comes back from Afghanistan but they go away so frequently (at some points 8 weeks on and 8 weeks off) that it’s the norm and I can’t fulfill those expectations. It’s not like the war hero returns anymore. I do cook him fillet steak and give him a decent bottle of red to wash it down but it can’t be a welcome home parade, apart from anything else its not good for the children. I think we have to operate as business as usual, its not fair to burden them with the stress of war. Afghanistan is just a word to them. It’s not a place. Bikini Bottom now that’s a place.
If you were to pick four or five words which sum up your relationship, what would they be and why?
Hagar and I are best friends, and immortal enemies. It keeps the relationship alive but it can be a real rollercoaster. We are opposites and that has it’s challenges. We don’t always see eye-to-eye.
If friends were to describe your relationship, how would they describe it, and would that be accurate?
Not really. But publicly, yes. Hagar is a street angel, house devil and I am street devil, house angel. Hagar cares about what other people think and that influences his public behaviour. I am all about what I think, so I can be quite badly behaved, especially if you add alcohol.
Does Hagar live up to stereotypes about men, i.e. being untidy, watching a lot of sports, being uncommunicative?
Yes, and no. He’s not untidy but not as tidy as me. He doesn’t watch a lot of sport. He’s too busy. There’s not much down time. His job means, he has to communicate more than most because we both need to know what the other is doing and there is no routine for either of us
Finally, what have you learned about men throughout your marriage?
I have learnt that men are genetically programmed to be how they are. When I met Hagar, I sorted out his dreadful dress sense, and polished him up a bit, did my best with him and thought, ‘he’s my re-model’. When I had my son, I thought, ‘right, now you are my start from scratch. I am going to grow my own perfect man.’ 6 years down the road, he’s broken me. Men are the way they are genetically. My son will have me do for him as long as I will do for him. When I get him to do it for himself, he makes such a pigs ear of it, that its easier, quicker and simpler to do it for him. Men are genetically programmed to be self-centred. They open their eyes each morning and think ‘what do I want today, and how can I get it?’
What can you remember about how you met Clare and your first impressions of her?
Clare and I met in Edinburgh, when I was based in Northern Ireland. I was working a 3 weeks on, 1 week off regime, and decided to go for a road trip round Scotland, on my motorbike. As part of that trip, I wanted to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for ages, and that included, an ex girlfriend, (my first love, who I travelled to Australia with when we were 17) called Natasha, who lived in Edinburgh. I got the ferry across, and headed on up to Edinburgh, where I met Tash (Natatsha) at her cute Colonies house in Stockbridge. We had a great evening with a few beers, and plenty of wine, and she suggested during that drunken evening that I give a friend of hers a phone call. She said this girl was called Clare, and she raced power boats for a living; but had recently broken her leg on a boat – this intrigued me as I am a bit of a petrol head after all! We spent about 2 hours on the phone, and I was hooked, I think we even agreed to get married in wetsuits (we were both into surfing and water-sports too). The upshot was that Clare agreed to bring her herself, broken leg and all, up to Edinburgh to meet up with me in a couple of days. I went on my travels and then returned to meet Clare, a couple of days later. When I arrived back at Tash’s, I walked into the room in my biker kit and saw Clare in the corner, she looked cool, but quiet and I felt pretty nervous without any drunken confidence. As soon as I arrived, Tash and her other mates went out, leaving Clare and I on out own! We got on Ok, but it was only that night when we went out clubbing (I gave her a piggyback down the stairs to the club) and I watched her being chatted up and almost molested by some drunken idiots, I thought I have to protect her and the best way to do that was to grab her and kiss her! Well it worked, the kiss was amazing and from then on I was properly hooked!
Were you romantic and spontaneous at the beginning of the relationship?
Yes – I am a romantic at heart, and what better way was there to show this, but through the medium of the mix tape. I made Clare a few (unfortunately it was the music I liked and not necessarily what she liked!) but I think she appreciated the sentiment. As I was away for 3 weeks of every month, we spent a lot of time on the phone and writing letters (the days before e-mail….) so we had to use our imagination and romance came easy with Clare. For the one week a month we spent together, we spent a lot of time in bed and the rest of the time filling our life with cool, romantic things – we definitely made the best use of our time together as we realised how precious it was and still is.
Do you feel that you do live up to some of the stereotypes about the way men and women behave towards each other in a relationship? For example, a woman nagging, a man not doing as much domestic work, a woman wanting to talk more than a man, or do you break from them?
I think we both break from type, as we are both ‘alpha’ personalities, so there is always friction over who is in charge or who should do what. That said, we both display aspects of the wrong stereotypes too. I could be described as ‘just gay enough’ in that I like interior design, and like things neat and tidy, and yet I fly military hardware for a living and am pretty macho in general! Neither of us enjoys domestic chores, in fact we need Clare to earn some serious money so we can employ a housekeeper/PA/Nanny to do the stuff we hate – but who wouldn’t want that? That said, I do hate housework and am pretty adept at finding excuses to avoid it, however Clare is equally good at seeing through them. As for women wanting to talk more than men? There are plenty of occasions where I have given Clare a damn good listening too – she loves to analyse everything and talks for Britain!
What are the main things that you’ve learned, or the ways you have changed because of your relationship with Clare?
I have learned to dress with more style and not tuck my shirt in with my trousers pulled right up – I seem to have a short body and long legs so this looked ridiculous. I think Clare believes she had saved me from the fashion demons, although now I am just pretty mainstream really.
Seriously though, I have learned to share more and that to get through life (especially as parents of 2 kiddy grenades) you need to work as a team on everything you do. We call it Team Macnaughton – cheesy, but it works. I have learned that while I may feel like I am the busiest bloke in the world, that Clare is working on several work projects, while running our house in the UK, our house in France and looking after the finances and children. Sometimes it humbles me, thinking about how capable she is. I guess I have learned that everyone works hard to be successful and that we need to work together to keep on top of things, or inevitably something slips and the house becomes a sh*thole or the finances become a nightmare.
And if you were to pick four or five words to sum up your relationship with Clare, what would they be and why?
Funny, turbulent, loving, adventurous, rewarding
Finally, if I ask you to remember a moment that sums up Clare, what moment immediately springs to mind.
Writing a book on a subject she knew very little about and it becoming a Sunday Times bestselling hardback – she is truly amazing and always exceeds my expectations of her!
Sniff, sob, sob – is that Hagar’s Oscar moment? Bless him – thanks honey!
For the published article check out page 94 (ish) of the March 2010 edition of Psychologies magazine.
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