In Ballet They Don't Call It Skipping

Last weekend we celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. We decided long ago that the main stay of our celebratory presents for such events would not be surprises.

You might see this as a lack of romance but I am pretty sure the Mrs M was being pragmatic when she suggested we should adopt such a position. After all why risk valuable gift money being wasted on items that you might not want. In truth I have been known to buy things that seemed sensible to me but didn't fit with a female perspective on gift buying (we won't mention the sowing box of 1988).

For this year's anniversary my bride hinted well in advance that we had never been to see a ballet. She started this process well in advance during our trip to see Strictly Come Dancing. What started out as a reasonable wish to watch a tango from close up turned into a desire to spend a couple of hours viewing pirouettes.

With this said we set off for Sheffield to watch the Northern Ballet's rendition of Wuthering Heights.

The Lyceum theatre was superb and the cast were clearly were world class; it wasn't long before the whole audience were spellbound, including myself.

Mrs M lapped up every minute of the performance and during the interval she seemed eager to find out what I made of this dancing feast.

I pointed out that, although I appreciated the skill of both the performers and the orchestra, I wasn't fully sure what was happening in the story.

My bride tried to help by enquiring what was going through my mind as I watched; I think she felt that this might show that I understood at some deeper level.

'Well' I said, trying to be honest, 'most of the time I was thinking how much all of the male dancers looked like 'Alistair McGowen'.

She looked slightly disappointed as if hoping that somewhere inside this eighteen stone ex - rugby player was a cultured heart.

'In addition' I continued 'I was counting how many times they skipped'.

Apparently this wasn't the answer she wanted and she tried to tell me that in the ballet it isn't called skipping.

On the plus side I bought ice creams for us both; it seems that I didn't choose well and so I had to eat the one that Mrs M rejected and then go back for another of the one I had chosen for myself. Result!

We settled down to watch the second half and I tried to view it through enlightened eyes. At the end my bride again asked for my opinion. 'It would have been better if they had ended with the Kate Bush song' I offered.

The Back Seat Driving Panel

As Mrs M and I approach our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary I feel it time for some reflection. Early on in our marriage we agreed to share responsibility for the various tasks involved in raising a family.

I was assigned the role of chief driver whenever we travelled even though, to be fair, my bride is a better driver than I am (although I would appreciate it if you didn't tell her I said so).

My responsibilities as family chauffer, however, don't come without their share of challenges.

It seems, and the female members of my family are in agreement on this, that I don't drive in a way that meets with their approval.

I either drive too slowly or I travel to fast. I either park too near or I park too far away.

And so it is that I have developed a thick skin when it comes to car related comments. I normally reply with 'when you are driving you can park wherever you want' or something similar.

Still our trips are accompanied by a set of regular encouraging remarks; 'watch that car', 'the lights are turning red', 'I am sure the other way would be quicker'.

In recent months a new phrase has been added largely due the fact that my advancing years seems to have brought a small amount of hearing loss. The phrase is in fact just a single word; 'indicator'.

My problem is not helped by the fact that the steering wheel seems to be inconveniently positioned to obscure the indicator light from view.

Last week we have had some of our dearest friends over for a few days. It was good to catch up and we spent many happy hours putting the world to rights safe in the knowledge that we had no responsibility for having to put our ideas into operation.

During our trips out I reverted to type and took up my usual position behind the wheel. Mrs M offered her help by reminding me that the colour red meant stop. Daughter number two considerately added some advice about the correct use of bus lanes.

Eventually, encouraged by my wife and daughters wise words, our female friend joined the panel of driving experts. She seemed to think that I might have forgotten how to use round-a-bouts.

I looked across at her husband for support and he raised his eyes in acknowledgement of my dilemma. We said nothing but I was comforted by the fact that he understood.

When we arrived at our destination he offered me the greatest sign of solidarity by turning up the volume on the CD player in order to drown out the help offered by the back seat panel.

Faded Jeans

For several months my wife and daughters have been expressing the view that I am in desperate need of a style makeover. The sight of me once again turning up for an event in T-shirt and denim must have been too much for them.

Anyway after an overdose of Trinny and Susannah terrorising fashion victims on TV, the Molineaux females decided to take me on a serious shopping expedition. After driving for what felt like several lunch times we arrived at the temple to mammon and found refuge in an outlet where the beverages end in a vowel and cost more than my last pair of jeans.

Suitably energized by cappuccinos and skinny lattes we set off in search of fabric designed for slimmer waistlines than mine.

I chose what appeared to be acceptable items for a man of my age and headed for the unisex changing rooms to see if any of them would make me look thinner; knowing only too well that the mirrors provided are designed to flatter.

I was stopped on my journey by daughter number one wishing to inspect my find. One by one she held each item of clothing up to the other members of our party and they all joined in the laughter.

After enjoying themselves at my expense they lead me away to another section of the store to be shown the type of trousers that I apparently ‘really liked’.

I muttered and moaned but still found myself trying them on and then coming out of the closet (in the old sense of the phrase), to do my own version of a fashion show. After telling me that I looked fantastic and that they made me look years younger they were kind enough to ask me what I thought of them.

‘Call me old fashioned’, I said ‘But I like the notion that I can FADE my own denim ‘after’ I have bought the jeans’. They looked at me as if my two score years and seven had afforded me no right to an opinion.

Not to be defeated the girls encouraged, or should that be harangued, me to try on the second pair of their selection. I emerged this time with several areas of flesh showing as the jeans in question were ripped in at least three places and both the pockets and the hems were frayed making them look like the pair that I had thrown away just two weeks earlier.

‘It is the fashion’, said my youngest ‘Everybody is wearing them’.
I tried once again to voice my objections.

‘Call me old fashioned’, I said ‘But I like the notion that I can RIP my own denim ‘after’ I have bought the jeans’.

This time my wife agreed with my complaint; pointing out to the girls that they were trying too hard to make me look younger.

We left the store without making a purchase only to enter another, seemingly identical, shop. It seemed to me that, even though I was the central figure of the day, I wasn’t really needed.

I made my escape and found a gadget store; joining all the other husbands who I presume had run away from similar shopping treats, I imagined owning a remote control spitfire and a walkie talkie watch.

My mobile phone rang and interrupted my enjoyment of a plasma ball; it was my wife complaining that I wasn’t putting as much effort in the day as they were.

When I arrived at the department store the females were loaded up with enough clothes to kit out an army.

You might think that I would have been daunted by this sight but I had a cunning plan; I was ready to agree to eight out of the first ten items I tried on whatever they looked like. It seemed the path of least resistance and would speed our journey to lunch.

It is for this reason that I sit here writing wearing brand new faded and a pink T-shirt. You might think that I am defeated but I take comfort in the fact that I refused to by the ‘man bag’ that they insisted were all the rage these days.

Hers, Mine or Ours

During our twenty-nine years of marriage I have noticed that my wife likes to claim ownership of certain things whilst rejecting others.

Whilst not wanting to step into the murky waters of sexism, I am assured by many of my male friends that she is not alone in this regard.

Just a few days ago she used the word 'my' when describing 'our' bedroom.

Granted there have been a number of nights over the last three decades when I have been banished to the sofa for some snoring related offence. Even so, I am sure that I should have equal share in its occupancy.

Now I think about it my presence in our bedroom is limited to a small proportion of it. I have just worked out that with the 18 inches square of my bedside cabinet and the hook behind the door I can only claim around four percent of the room.

Once our youngest daughter left for university my bride suggested I store my clothes in her old wardrobe; to be honest it is useful having my clothes available when I have to leave early for work. Fortunately I still have occupancy of an eighteen strip of our king size bed.

As far as the bathroom is concerned I do have half a shelf in the cabinet but where I do have the most space is on the shelf that contains reading materials. And, although my wife likes to purge the contents every now and then, I have a favourite sports book, a comedian's biography, and an electronics catalogue.

Even with this attempted take over bid Mrs M still calls it her bathroom. I need to work harder.

Over the years I have come to terms with my dessert being known as 'ours' when we are at a restaurant but this reshaping of our world is a little too much.

As I type I am reminded that my bride has made claim to two thirds of our sofa as she reclines next to me; she is trying to convince me that I can type and tickle her feet at the same time.

When I ask Mrs M why she feels the need to call so many things hers rather than ours she responds she tells me that it is a trade off. She gets the pretty things and I get the functional items. Apparently, because I love to cook I have ownership of two cupboards in the kitchen.

At this point she announce to me 'From now on you shall be known as lord of the pans'. I think I deserve more than mockery.

I responded by saying that I was just off to the pub to spend some money from 'my' joint bank account.