Friday, January 10, 2020


Have I ever shown you this piece I had in the Times some years ago?
I hope not...

He loves me! He thinks I’m an old Land Rover

            Valentine’s Day will be upon us within a few weeks. How many of you with long-term partners are expecting to receive a card oozing with loving feelings and brimming with compliments?
            When Ronald Reagan’s letters to Nancy were published a few years ago, it prompted a Times reader to write to the paper quoting some of her husband’s offerings in contrast. “You may be an old goat,” he had written, “but you’re my old goat.” Women all over the country must have laughed grimly in recognition. I did.
            Can you top this gem that my husband delivered as we sat in the late summer sunshine? "You know, sitting there with the light behind you, you look quite attractive. For your age. From this angle." Or this one, said as I was trying on a new jumper:“You look quite slim in that garb – it must be an optical illusion.”
            What is it with long term partners? Do they have an automatic complimentectomy after two years of cohabitation? Being more charitable, maybe they think it undermines the integrity of the relationship to be anything but completely honest at all times. And if they do find themselves slipping into rave revue mode they feel they have to tone down the comment by qualifying it. Yesterday, I found a note my husband had sent with some flowers when I was in hospital after a mastectomy, and I quote:

These look terrific, but not as terrific as you.

And underneath this he’d written:

This may be overstating the case.    

He’s not insensitive though. He does realise that ageing is difficult to come to terms with, and that couples should give each other kindly, supportive boosts form time to time. One day, as we sat doing the crossword, he said, "The inside of your eyebrow looks youthful."
"What?" I spluttered. 
"If I squint, the inside of your left eyebrow looks quite youthful. It's wrinkle free." Then he smiled, and his imaginary tact lights started flashing. He thought he’d done so well.
His latest attempt was - “Your back is one of your best remaining bits”- but it just made me feel like an ancient ruin
Working from home, I rarely have to brave the world of power dressing. Unfortunately, living in an empty nest, I have to depend on my husband’s feeble efforts if I need reassurance about my appearance. On going to a festival where I was due to give a presentation, I asked if I looked OK to stand up in front of a lot of people. He replied rather anxiously: "How far away are they going to be?"
         Last week, when I was going to an important meeting he asked me what I had on my eyes.    "Eye make-up" I explained.
"Why?" he said.
"So that I don't feel like such an old hag," I said.
"Why aren't you covered in it?"         
            I used to feel sorry for my teenage children when they had unsightly pimples in very obvious places. On coming down to breakfast, mortified at the new blemish, and desperately wondering how to disguise it for a day at school, my daughter would be greeted with: "Zoe, did you know you had a huge, nasty spot right on the end of your nose?"
            Living with an incorrigibly candid man can be psychologically bracing, but at least when he says something complimentary you know he means it. In our house we have a game where we go through each member of the family and say, if they were an animal, what animal would they be? Or alternatively, what piece of furniture, or what type of house ?
One day we used cars as our reference point, and I was delighted to be described, not as a Morgan, or a Mercedes, but a Land Rover. The pile of magazines my husband keeps under the bed to leaf through last thing at night are well-thumbed back copies of Land Rover International. In his eyes a Land Rover is reliable, versatile, unbeatable, fun and, above all, an object of desire.

Me: "What did you think of my article in the Times about your compliments?"
Him: "Well, it wasn't nearly as boring as I was expecting."

This weekend my latest book EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU is free as an ebook on Amazon.

Follow this link. And tell your friends about it too. And Facebook, and Instagram and...anywhere else you can think of!

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