Wild At Heart

“Helllllooo Tanya,” Seb’s voice drawls in my voicemail. “I’ve just dropped some assignments off at college and…” Hitting ‘3’ to save the message – I love to listen to his voice again and again – I call back.
“Helloooo,” he says, answering the phone. He sounds happy to hear from me.
“Hi,” I say. “Sorry: we drove through a patch of no signal when you called and…anyway. Hello.”
“I am so dreadfully sorry about Monday,” he says. “I had a tough day of work with my disabled chap and…”
“That’s OK,” I say. Obviously was out with Hamlet when he was supposed to call and didn’t on Monday. Then he called on Tuesday when I was at MediaChap’s club and so I didn’t pick up the phone.
“How are you?” He says.
“Oh, fine,” I say. “Just on the car with Mum, driving back to Stratford. We’ve just been at the Heritage Motor Museum all day. It’s brilliant.”
“Great,” he says.
“Did you get all your assignments in?” I say.
“Yes, I’m just walking through Brighton now,” he says.
“Well done,” I say. “What’s happening with your applications for next year?”
“It’s quite scary,” he says. “It’s all going ahead. I’ve got three offers from universities for Ecology. So I’m going to be spending the next three years studying and not earning money and…”
“Well, you have spent time not working in the past,” I say.
“Yes: but I’m definitely committing to it now,” he says.
“It’s great that you’re doing it,” I say. “As you know, I’m envious.”
It’s not as if he’s leaving a job with a six figure salary to go back to studying, after all. Aside from bits of silver service waitering and labouring and gardening and shifts as a doctor’s receptionist, Seb has never worked. He’s only ever done unskilled work: ‘the sort of shit things that actors do to earn money’ as he put it once. And he’s spent three years in a monastery of course, and months and months travelling.
“Thank you,” he says.
“So what do you have to get – what are your offers?” I say.
“Well, it’s complicated to work it out with Access credits,” he says. “But I ought to be able to get the grades.”
“Where do you think you want to go?” I say.
“Exeter or Lancaster,” he says.
“Where’s the third place?” I say.
“Reading,” he says.
That is much closer to me, I think. Can get the train from Paddington. Why can’t you go there.
“Why don’t you want to go there?” I say.
“I think that the other two have better courses. Lancaster is really pretty and…”
“Where is it?” I say, thinking that it sounds far away.
“The Lake District,” he says. “And if I want to focus on Re-wilding, that all happens in the North and…”
“It’s beautiful there,” I say. But too far away, I don’t say. “What about Exeter?”
“Well, it’s a good course, but, not very, er, diverse,” he says.
“It’s full of your people,” I say.
“Exactly,” he says. “Lancaster will be a bit more eclectic. At Exeter it’s all very public school.”
“Exeter is a good university,” I say. “My cousin and his friends went there.”
“True, but I might prefer somewhere a bit more mixed,” he says.
“In four years, when you’ve got an amazing job as an ecologist, we can get married,” I say. Like the Adamsons. Or Jane Goodall and her professor – Louis Leakey I think.
“You can certainly visit me in my hut,” Seb says, and I remember that he doesn’t want to live in Kenya or somewhere hot with lions and elephants, he wants to live in a cave in a remote part of Scotland, alone. Being celibate and meditating.
Not, of course, that George and Joy Adamson are a relationship model to emulate. Certainly by the time David Attenborough visited them, Joy was sleeping in one tent with the lioness Elsa and George was sleeping elsewhere. And they were both savagely murdered of course. But there’s still a romance about their story: living in the steamy wild with the huge African animals. Rather as depicted more recently in “Wild At Heart,” a fictional TV series following vets in an African wildlife park. A romance which is rather lacking in the image of Seb sleeping on a mat on the floor of a cave in a remote Scottish Island, ringing guillemots in the freezing winter.
“So, it’s half term next week and I can visit you,” Seb says.
“Brilliant,” I say. “Well I’m going to be at the office on Monday and Tuesday, or if the Bus Strike goes ahead on Monday, on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“So I’ll aim to come up towards the end of the week,” he says.
“Great. Looking forward to it,” I say, smiling inside. Ah, I’ve missed my darling Seb…

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