My earliest memory would be when I was about four or five, walking into school on my first day. I don’t remember much about it, though. My brother Jamie and me had some difficult moments growing up: our parents getting divorced, and obviously Dunblane [the school shooting in 1996]. But we played tons of tennis and had a very active childhood.
If I could go back in time, it would be to Barcelona when I was 15 and training there. It was the first time I had freedom. Some people get it when they finish school or move to university. I loved it there and made a lot of friends.
People see me on TV and think I am very intense, moody and difficult. But take me away from the court and I’m pretty laid-back. I don’t have a temper. I don’t break things; I don’t punch walls; I don’t shout and scream. But when I’m on the tennis court, I do.
I’m not a massive fan of flying, especially when I can’t see what’s happening in the cockpit and you’re not in control. I know it’s completely irrational, because it’s so safe in comparison to driving.
The only player I was intimidated by – and I don’t know why, exactly – was Marat Safin. I played him when I was young at Cincinnati, in 2005. Sometimes I’d speak to him and he’d be nice, and sometimes – I don’t know whether he didn’t like me or not – I found it a bit tricky.
I would like to stay young because the thing I love doing the most is playing and competing at tennis. As you get older, the amount of time you get to keep doing that becomes less. I wish I’d lived a bit more in the moment when I was younger, getting the most out of these amazing cities that we go to.
I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I’m a realist. I want to be given what the reality of the situation is, not someone trying to put a positive spin on it – or a negative spin. In life, sometimes things are shit and sometimes things are really good. But things aren’t good all of the time.
There are a few things that depress me– animal cruelty, I don’t get that. And when people who are in bad situations are getting treated horribly by some of the media – people who are trying to come to the UK on rafts and boats, for instance. They’re coming from countries that we potentially had an involvement in, disrupting and unsettling. They’re risking their lives and their family’s lives. How bad a situation would you have to be in to take that decision?
I wish there was a God, but I don’t believe there is one. If there was a God, surely he or she would stop the suffering in the world. God would always be taught to us as this incredible thing, but why would so much suffering be allowed to go on for so long? I don’t get that.
People have said some terrible thingsto me, but I don’t let it bother me. But there was one time. I had just lost in the semis at Wimbledon [against Rafael Nadal in 2011] and was walking down the street with my wife. Some guys drove past and screamed, “You fucking loser!” It was a period in my career where I was already doubting myself. I found it hurtful – .
The last time I cried was when I went over to New York this summer. I hadn’t travelled since last November and had been around my kids for seven months.
People ask me, who will retire first: Federer, Djokovic, Nadal or myself? I’d say Federer. He’s 39. But who knows? If something happened to my hip, for instance, I couldn’t do anything about it.
Andy Murray is wearing AMC, a tennis line created by Andy and Castore (castore.com)
John, copywriter, Gloucestershire While the kids enjoy exchanging Haribo with the neighbours once a year, trick or treat has never been a big event for us as a family. This year, we’re taking inspiration from the Pixar film Coco, which both my children love, and attempting our own version of the Mexican festival Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The idea of celebrating the lives of lost loved ones really appeals to me as I don’t think we’re great at dealing with death in British culture. My dad died last year, so we’ll be thinking of him, but we’ve also got lots of photos and items for our ofrenda (a sort of family altar), including my wife’s grandfather’s teddy bear, my uncle’s classy pink slip-on shoes, and various other keepsakes. We plan to tell some stories, eat some of their favourite foods, and basically have a party.
Make it work indoors
Sarah Manley, London As an American, Halloween was a big part of my childhood, so I like to go way over the top, whether I am celebrating at home or with others. We are going to decorate the whole house outrageously, carve a bunch of pumpkins and throw ourselves a spooky, candlelit costume dinner party. Instead of them going trick or treating, my husband will send the kids on a twisty indoor treasure hunt to find a hidden candy stash. After the kids are in bed we will have a festive Halloween cocktail (the “eyeball highball” is a fave), and spook each other out with a Halloween-themed Scrabble game. Boo!
Ali Pearce-Smith, Rutland Our kids love trick or treating; I think it’s a combination of the walking around in the dark and the sugar rush. Sadly, this year they won’t be going out because we don’t want the trick to be a super-spreader event in the community. Instead, we are treating ourselves to an Addams Family freaky feast, which my partner and I will be hosting as Gomez and Morticia Adams. After the food, we plan to play games and we might even have time to take them round a local graveyard late at night.
Create socially distanced scares
Katie Snape, doctor, Streatham, London We’ve got a group of 22 children together from 11 households and we plan for each family group to do a socially distanced treasure hunt. Our neighbours have kindly agreed to host pictures in their windows and the children will move clockwise around the street ticking off the different pictures on a chart as they go. Once they have found all 20 pictures they can collect a goodie bag from their own home. This way we can have a fun treasure hunt, waving and smiling at each other while staying socially distanced and, most importantly, everyone will get to eat a ton of sweets at the end!
Get cutting and make some Halloween origami decorations. Photograph: James Thew/Alamy Stock Photo
Do some eerie origami
Dr Lizzy Burns, creative specialist, Oxford Obviously, we won’t be going out for trick or treat. Instead, I am running an online Halloween origami session in collaboration with our local library in Oxfordshire. I have been learning to fold bats, cats, witches and created my own pumpkins out of paper.
Hold a costume competition
Michelle, banker, Dublin, Ireland We are in total lockdown in an old cul-de-sac in Dublin and the residents have agreed that there will be no trick or treating this year. However, we are doing a costumed parade on the evening itself, and I can’t wait to be spooked by the sight of the little ones in their scary costumes. We are also going to town on outdoor decorations and our front garden will be a dimly lit graveyard, complete with haunting tunes and a dry-ice machine.
Freak yourself out: Halloween is the perfect time to catch up on horror classics such as The Exorcist. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy
Host a scary movie marathon
Zia, barrister, Cape Town, South Africa We will be doing a scary movie marathon in the lounge with some frighteningly delicious homemade snacks. I am still busy finalising the screening shortlist, but The Exorcist will probably nab the hallowed 8pm spot. None of my housemates have seen it and I can’t imagine a better time to show it to them. My girlfriend hates horror, so to coax her into joining I am appealing to her appetite: burnt broccoli salad with marinated red peppers and fried pretzels, crispy tofu sliders with radish slaw and mango with sticky rice for dessert.
Get spooked on Zoom
Cassandra, patent lawyer, France My son’s class will have a Zoom meeting during which the households will turn out the lights and light candles or jack o’lanterns and we will tell each other spooky stories; I have threatened to read the three witches scene from Macbeth. Everything else has moved online this year, so why not Halloween?
Sweet success: a little imagination can help children still enjoy the celebration. Photograph: AMD Images/Alamy
Go pumpkin spotting
Amy, writer, London I’ll be taking my little people on a walk of the neighbourhood, them holding buckets and me with a pocketful of sweets. Every time we see a lit pumpkin in a window or garden, they will shout “Hello pumpkin!” and I will drop a sweet into their bucket. The day before Halloween, I will also get them to plant pumpkin seeds in the garden for the Pumpkin King and in the morning they’ll wake to find lollies stuck in the ground, as if they have grown from the seeds.
Ditch the zombies
Martha Willette Lewis, artist/radio presenter, Connecticut, US I will be running a crafting workshop on Zoom as a part of an exhibition I curated about the women’s right to vote. The workshop will focus on making quick and easy Ruth Bader Ginsburg costumes out of ordinary household materials. Frankly, we’ve got too many zombies and vampires in the US at the moment and I think it would be great to see young boys and girls dressed like RBG for Halloween. I will have some candy ready if treaters show, but I will keep a distance and wear gloves and a mask. Who knows, I may even use my gavel as an extension pole to hand out the treats safely.
Our margarita doesn’t feature triple sec or orange liqueur, which makes it a cleaner drink more like the ones they have in Mexico. Use a decent white tequila, rather than an aged one – something like Ocho or Tapatio will do the trick nicely – because it suits the drink’s profile much better.
50ml white tequila 25ml freshly squeezed lime juice, plus 1 lime wedge to garnish 10ml 2:1 sugar syrup 1 drop orange flower water (or rose water; optional)
Put the liquids in a shaker with a decent fistful of ice, and shake hard. Pour the whole lot, including the ice, into a rocks glass (salt the rim first, if you like), garnish with the lime wedge and serve.
I live with a man I don’t love. But I once loved a man I met at university. We had a few nice holidays together and cosy meals out. He always paid for everything, which made me feel special. I imagined that I was his soulmate, but he wasn’t one to express his feelings, and my countless cards declaring mine were seldom reciprocated.
We parted, and he married someone else, which hurt. But I was thrilled when he still wanted to meet occasionally. I convinced myself he had rushed into marriage, in need of children and stability. I had a couple of significant boyfriends, but neither asked me to marry him and children never happened for me.
At first, we continued to meet platonically every year. I sent cards via his work. Then, after 10 years of cards but no meet-ups, he wanted to see me again. We kissed and arranged to take things further. A few Travelodgeslater, and I knew we were meant to be together.
We hatched a plan where I would accompany him on a sporting trip for a week. I spent long days watching him do his sport or reading: I felt slightly used, but the bliss of having him to myself outweighed my misgivings. I allowed him to take naked photos of me, which his wife later found. I thought at that point he was surely mine. But when he called, it was to say it was over between us.
Since that day, two years ago, I have heard nothing. I can only think it is because of the photos and the embarrassment to him. My friends say I have been used, but I can’t accept it. If I could just turn this around, it could be the difference between a wasted life and a perfect one. What should I do?
Your letter – much edited here – both saddened and infuriated me with its millefeuille of excuses you’ve made for this man. There is a simple truth, which is that if someone really wants to be with you, they will be. No distance, or person, or circumstances will stop them. If you could have told yourself this, and believed it, some years ago, you would have spared yourself all this angst.
But we can’t go back, only forward. Please don’t send him any more cards, delete his details from your phone and all other records. Let him go. Look at his actions: they are entirely selfish. Paying for things is not caring deeply for someone; it is being able to afford something and, for a while, he could afford to have you there, as his ego boost. And then his wife found out.
The only real anger you showed in your letter – and yet you must have so much anger towards him – was directed at his wife, who, let’s be clear, has done absolutely nothing wrong. She hasn’t taken your life away; if anything, you have impinged upon hers.
I consulted psychotherapist Rebecca Harris (psychotherapy.org.uk), who said, “The first thing that struck me was that there was something very passive about [your attitude to] your own life.” She also wondered why you were so caught on this man. “Our choice of partner often tells us a lot about how we see ourselves. What did being in a relationship with him tell you about yourself? Deep down, do you believe you deserve to be treated with so little care? Or are you hooked on the idea of the person you could be, if only he would accept you as his partner. And who is that person?”
Harris said that if you could find the answer to this, “You may be able to understand what is missing from your own real life.” We all have better relationships if we go into them as whole people.
Harris advised you to“focus on what you can control, and change that – instead of focusing on what you can’t control. Could it be that the idea of leaving this man behind scares you because it makes you vulnerable to new hurt? There’s safety in what’s already known.” Would you consider therapy? It would really help you, but I understand it’s not always easy to access.
Talk to the man you live with; find out a bit more about yourself. If you’re frustrated at the lack of communication from your ex-married-lover imagine how your actual partner who you live with feels.
“You still have so much life to live,” said Harris. “And you do have the ability to take control of it and change your future, if you could only stop looking to [this man] for your happiness.” Write that on a card, and send it to yourself.
• Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.
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