Mundane Love Stories
It’s all you’ve got
Waiting up for you
Cup of tea for you
There on the sofa
That’s real love
Slow Sun - The Maccabees
When I close my eyes and I think about love I see a spectrum of colours. Red - the colour synonymous with love, passion and anguish features - but it does not dominate. Some hues are complementary, others are completely at odds and I then I think about combining all of these colours and landing on a neutral palette - grey, beige and brown. I think I have found my definition of love.
Love is complicated. Sometimes it is fireworks and stomach flips; a feeling of unrivalled euphoria. Sadly, the business of love is risky, a contract with ourselves and with others. When it buckles under pressure, collapses in on itself or implodes with little warning, words fail me, it is utterly excruciating. It is unrelenting.
For me love is about letting go, allowing a carefully-crafted front to slip without fear of judgement, scorn or indifference. It is the quieter moments played out behind closed doors, the inconsequential chatter between lovers, family or friends; no social media showmanship or appraisal is necessary.
When I refer to these moments of love as mundane, I mean it lovingly. I relish the stories of dull, humdrum love for they often receive little or no attention. They are gentle and soft, coloured by the peaks and troughs of love’s extremes, stabilised by security, patience and contentment.
Mundane love is walking around the supermarket, sitting in blissful silence, saying the wrong thing, compulsory trips to the in-laws, unwritten rules, brushing teeth, secret handshakes, burnt toast, wiping away the tears, a squeeze of the hand, a knowing look; a pact like no other.
Romantic, filial, neighbourly. In my opinion, whatever the texture, shape, colour or tone, mundane love trumps all. Its deficiencies are its strengths, it is not spectacular nor is it necessarily romantic, but it is the safest place we will ever know. It is the cup of tea we receive without having to ask.
For me, being on the receiving end of small acts of kindness, displays of tender intent and instinctive stoicism, all embody mundane love. A lot of my recollections revolve around visits to the hospital. I’m fine, I’m just a hypochondriac. The blood tests, the time I thought I had appendicitis, the A&E pit stop where in true fight or flight style, I jumped towards the molten hot oil cascading its way towards our new lino floor and you told me we would fix it later.
I could go on, I really could, but on this occasion, I thought it would be apt to invite others to share their stories of mundane, no-frills love. I hope you enjoy their anecdotes and take time to reflect on your own tender moments of utterly dull yet totally enchanting love.
Charlie Hooson-Sykes, Writer and Author
The only thing that springs to mind was a few weeks ago. It was 5 am, I was lying in bed, warm, comfortable, husband next to me, one cat next to my pillow, one lying on my tummy. And I just thought this is what home feels like. In that moment of everyone sleeping around me, I was content and happy.
Emily Nicholson, Photographer
I’ve never talked about this before, it makes me sound like such a rebellious teenager but here goes. At the age of 17, I bought a dog while my parents were away on holiday. That was how strongly I fell in love with Ted the Cavalier King Charles puppy when I first set eyes on him in a dodgy pet shop on the outskirts of Manchester. I remember the moment so clearly, just popping in to ‘have a look’ and seeing him locked in a cage with 2 of his litter mates. My mum cried when I told her over the phone what I had done. But on her return, and within about 3 seconds of meeting him, she fell in love with him too. Now, he’s our beloved 10-year-old family dog and it’s safe to say my mum couldn’t be without her little Ted.
James Edwards, Comedian
I was putting together a flat pack Tesco’s bed (the bed has stayed longer than the girlfriend) and it was one of the rare times I was wearing a vest as I feel self-conscious about the stretch marks on my shoulders. As I was lifting one side of the bed she traced her finger along one of the stretch marks and said: “these are cool, like you’ve been hit by lightning”. Somehow she’d managed to turn something I was self-conscious about into a plus, I said out loud “you’re amazing” but in my head realised I was in love with her.
Jenny Lewis, Author and Writing Coach
I don't remember the moment I fell in love with my dog (it happens every day) but I do remember the moment I realised I would marry my now husband. We'd known each other online for 7 years. We finally met in person when I went to visit him for his birthday weekend. He told me to stash my bag in his bedroom so it was out of the way. I stepped into his bedroom, looked around and just thought, 'I'm going to marry this man. This is the bedroom of my future husband’. Then I went back downstairs. We've been together ever since - 11 years and married for 8 years. Not quite the mad, romantic falling in love that books and films are made of.
Kimberley Robinson, Mental Health Activist
When you are both hungover, feeling agitated, feeling very unglamorous and fragile. You know it’s love when they endure you and endure being hungover with you. You look around and notice that they too are looking and feeling just as horrendous. It’s like you both turn into potatoes in the morning and you still bloody love each other.
Lakeisha Goedluck, Writer and Editor
We’re sixteen and drunk as anything at the common near our house. We both need to pee, so, naturally, we end up finding a clearing, squatting and giggling at each other. It that very moment, I knew she was my soulmate - and bathroom mate - for life.
Phoebe Arnstein, Filmmaker
Stephen has always had an affinity to green space. We used to have a little roof terrace at our last flat and I would hear him tinkering around up there, tending to our temperamental tomato crop. We’re fortunate enough to have a proper backyard now, and in the past few months, I’ve loved watching him through the kitchen window hacking away at the mass of untamed hedge covering the back wall, planting Lupin seeds in the bare earth or hydrating the lavender he bought to invite the bees to pollinate. Everything is done with such consideration and in these quiet moments, I am reminded just how gentle and kind this man is. I can’t wait to see this garden grow.
Natalia Ribbe, Founder of Ladies of Restaurants
My partner and I went travelling earlier this year. We did a sort of half backpackers delight, half luxury hotel kind of trip through Southeast Asia. We’ve not been together too long, long enough to know it’s love, but I suppose a big trip like this where the looming fear of food poisoning dangles over every bowl of delicious noodles, can really tighten the bond. But it was not a constant discussion of our bowel movements that sent my heart racing, it was packing. Moving hostels every few nights meant we became expert packers, and extremely organised. We packed the exact same way every time, we did what we called “an unpack repack”, an extremely unfunny inside joke that stays with us to this day. There was one particular “section” that made me laugh, feel safe, happy, totally over the moon in love with him, and that was the top pocket of backpack two; the ‘electronics department’. In this little pocket, we kept chargers and converters and any sort of wire that needed a home. I knew he was the one from unpacking and repacking and keeping things tidy in the electronics department.
Farah Shafiq, Chief Sub-Editor
Every morning, I run to the gym. Leaving you to wake up slow. Every evening, I arrive home to your espresso mug, on top of your breakfast plate - left right in front of the TV, on the coffee table, the arm of the sofa, or the windowsill (where you once left a banana behind the curtain). I figure out what you ate, as I carry them into the kitchen - where I find a couple of cheese rinds and some crumbs on the breadboard. I’ll tell you off for this daily occurrence later, but as I wash up, I realise I love you a little bit more.
Emma Winterschladen, Food, Travel & Book Editor
Love is: getting all dressed up and celebrating the marriage of two of your besties alongside your own best one. But it’s also: quiet Saturdays, when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work and under the weather with life, and said best one drives you to various shops and goes off ingredient hunting, list in hand, and then helps you unpack and chop vegetables and wash up, all the while making cups of tea throughout and giving you the odd cuddle, even though he’s decisively not the cuddly type and all he really wants to do is watch the cricket.
Una Barnes, 94, Grandmother of 7, Brighton Dweller
When I wash and iron his shirts, I love Joe so much it hurts.
When I shop and get his tea, love for Joe envelopes me.
Sitting in the firelights’s glow love within me burns for Joe.
Lying safely in my bed, love for Joe just fills my head.
In the morning, cold and grim, I could not care less for him.