You think it’s not done. But then it is done. But it’s not done.

Divorce is the opposite of marriage, a kind of un-marriage. When Kathy and Gareth were married in December I had such a strong awareness of the significance,  not merely of the moment, but of the ceremony, the public nature of the statement and the commitment being made: here, before the eyes of god, if you believe in him or her, and in the eyes of the community – in the eyes of the law and of the state – are two people, joining their lives together, and in doing so, giving expression not only to their merely personal feelings or emotions, but to a new public and societal status and position in life.

Divorce is the undoing of all that. It is no less public and definitive. It is the act of stating formally, before the eyes of god and the community, in the framework of the state and the laws of the land, this relationship has been cancelled. It exists no more. What once was recognised by all, is no longer recognised and has no legal or other status or reality.

I said to Rob, last night as we were sitting out on the deck, a peri peri chicken flattie on the barbecue, onions, aubergine, potatoes, red and green peppers grilling: you would think that four and a half years of separation has completed the process of termination, but it hasn’t. Divorce is different from separation.

We had been talking about her return to Canada, how this is not the right time, not now, just when the house has been given its first touch of colour, a warm earthy terracotta bringing life and drama to the hall and passage; just when the garden with its freshly turned soil is returning to life; not now, with a fire burning and our supper grilling on the barbecue. And she said, maybe this isn’t the right time; but maybe you need the time, too, and the space, to absorb this divorce.

Somewhere along the line the tears simply welled up and could not be contained. Grief, regret, and guilt, I blurted out: what harm have I done, what hurt have I caused?

We hugged and cried together. You did a very brave thing, she said. Not everyone would be prepared to do what you have done.

Later we lit a big fire in the open fireplace outside, piling on the pine logs that had been cut down from the garden. A smoky, resinous fragrance filled the air, and the fire burned and cleansed.