There is a basic flaw at the heart of our marriage. A fault line. A fissure. It goes like this:
When I am ill I need sympathy.
I need someone to pop in every 10 minutes or so and see how I’m doing; make me a cup of tea (if I’m strong enough, obviously) and then go to the corner shop for some Lucozade.
And most important of all, tell me that I am incredibly brave: that virtually no-one in human life has suffered as much as I’m clearly suffering at that moment.
My wife, on the other hand, likes to be left alone.
She’s one of those wounded animals that crawls off to find a place to hide until it has recovered and can re-join the herd.
You can guess the problem.
When Jane is ill I treat her like I want to be treated. Result? I turn up with a cup of tea and she tells me to go away. Or words to that effect.
When I’m ill, Jane treats me like she wants to be treated. Result? I spend my time ranting about no-one giving a fig. If I’m strong enough, obviously…
Last weekend was a fine case in point. I’d returned from Rotterdam distinctly unwell.
By Friday afternoon some North European palsy had wiped me out and I was shivering uncontrollably.
“Why have you gone to bed?”
“Because I’m freezing to death.”
My beloved put her hand on my forehead. “You’re not hot. You haven’t got a temperature.”
“I’m cold, I’ve just told you. That’s why I’m in bed with my jumper on. And my dressing gown. And my coat on top of me.”
“Well don’t start sweating. Especially on my side.
“And if you’re going to lie awake moaning all night go and sleep in Tom’s room so I can’t hear you.”
I survived the night, but was no better on Saturday morning.
“Fortunately I just had the strength to make it to sofa. And turn the TV on.
“I’m going to watch the cricket,” I said.
“Well I’m going to clean the bathroom. Then I’m going to take Jessica into town. Then - ”
I felt my eyes closing.
When I woke up England were three down and Joe Root was striding out to bat.
Three hours later I toasted his century with a new bottle of Lucozade.
But the celebration didn’t last…
“You’re still on the sofa.”
“Yes, I’m ill.”
“You’ve been there all day.”
“Joe Root got a hundred.”
Really. For a woman that claims to have been born in the next village to Geoffrey Boycott my wife’s knowledge of cricket is remarkably lacking.
“Why don’t you go to bed?”
“The Champions League final is coming on…”
“So you’re not ill after all.”
“Of course he’s not ill.
“He’s pretending so he doesn’t have to fix the kitchen cupboard.
“All men are the same.”
Just what I needed. Hurricane Jessica.
“Thank you for buying me the Lucozade, darling.”
“Yeah, well. I bought two. Seeing as you’re determined to be ill.”
Ten minutes later she was back.
“Are you strong enough to eat, daddy? Could you manage something before the football comes on?”
Was there a hint of sarcasm in that remark? No. There was a damn great truckload of it.
He’s out there somewhere. The Boy Who Will Marry My Daughter.
A word of advice, mate. If you’re going to be ill and you fancy some sympathy, do it now.
While there’s the chance you might be living at home and have your mum to look after you.
Jessica is going to make her mother look like Florence Nightingale…