Last night we partook in one of our cherished Cotswold rituals for the last time (for now), a film in the private cinema at Barnsley House. We narrowed our selection down to two respectable classics, the original Italian Job or A Streetcar Named Desire. Only when the concierge could find neither did husband suggest we indulge in a reprisal of Notting Hill. Two glasses of wine and Hugh Grant at his floppiest were promptly sourced, and a few minutes later we had taken our places on the cinema’s candy pink loveseats.
Of course this ritual would be incomplete without husband deciding about five minutes into the film that there was something sub-optimal about the quality of our viewing experience. It didn’t matter we were watching a nineties romcom instead of some Blu-ray sci-fi extravaganza; husband has his standards. Hugh Grant had hardly made his way to work in his travel bookstore before husband was shoving past me to go into the projector room. A minute later he had managed to totally disable the picture and we were listening to Hugh’s amiable patter to the accompaniment of a black screen. Husband declared there was obviously something wrong with the projector and brought the lights up. I stayed seated, closed my eyes and sighed a silent sigh before offering to call down to reception to see if they could help. More flapping ensued, and before long Hugh and Julia were back, this time at the proper aspect ratio as husband took pleasure in pointing out to me.
You see husband has a full-blown obsession with aspect ratios. We are not allowed to watch anything on television or at the cinema, never mind if it is our television or cinema, without husband tinkering with the aspect ratio to ensure the image is being projected as the creator intended: strictly no stretched faces, cut off pictures, or fuzzy edges allowed. At worst this is a symptom of control freakdom; at best a sincere respect for the crafts of television and film. Most the time I can’t tell the difference, or, if I can, don’t care. A slightly distorted Hugh and Julia are good enough for me.
This is, of course, emblematic of how we both approach life. Husband is fussy and precise and under the illusion that the more he frets the more he can control. I am, well, a little sloppy and prone to let things happen to me rather than trying to ‘make things happen.’ (In my defense, the things that happen to me have worked out pretty ok so far.) Of course the truth is there are times and places more suited to one approach over the other, those times when the aspect ratio in life really does matter. And credit where credit is due: husband is the one who pushed me to force the issue of moving back to the U.S. when I was offered a new job within my current company, and it worked. I’m not so sure husband has yet taken any laissez-faire cues from me, but at least I can leave England knowing I’ve seen Notting Hill as it was meant to be.