Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Nude sausage rolls and little needy bunny rabbits

We are all sitting at a table in a small bakery on the high street, enjoying a lunch of freshly baked pastry goods.
I say 'enjoying', but in fact I have to eat while deliberately staring at the wall, because both of my children are eating sausage rolls, which always make me faintly nauseous. I find the process deeply unpleasant to watch: both of them are in the habit of 'peeling' the sausage roll in layers, eating all the flaky pastry and then leaving a hideous tumescent pink worm of sausage-meat on the plate, which they may eat, or may simply just wave around like a fleshy light-sabre. The sight always reminds me, unbidden and unwelcome, of my grandparents Golden Retriever, which often had to be discouraged from cleaning its intimate areas while sitting in full view of the dining table. I have a vivid memory of my Nan slapping it across the muzzle with a rolled up copy of the Daily Express, and telling it loudly to "Put your lipstick away while we're eating."
Looking through the window, I can see the cashpoint over the road. I decide that rather than watch them eat, I'll go and find out if I have been paid yet for the month.
"I'll be back in a minute," I say to my wife. "I just need to check my balance."
"What?" she asks.
"My balance. I need to check it."
"Why?" she asks "Are you thinking of doing a tightrope walk? Hahaha!"
I look at her uncomprehendingly.
"Balance!" she says. "Checking your balance. To see if you can balance...."
She does a little mime of a tightrope walker, arms flailing. Other customers in the shop look on with interest.
"Ah" I say, flatly.
"Ha ha ha!" laughs my wife, much too loudly. "Ha ha ha!"
I give a grim little nod to indicate that yes, I have understood, but to my mind the joke is now firmly over.

"Ha ha ha! Balance"
"I meant my bank balance" I say, trying to explain.
She clearly doesn't care. "Hahaha!" she says, louder still.
I start to sidle away. Every now and again, my wife will make a joke that she herself finds so funny that she will be insensible for minutes. This has all the hallmarks of one of those occasions, and when it happens all I can normally do is ride it out. This is the first time, however, there has been a public audience, and on the whole I think I'd rather the floorshow went on without me.
"HAHAHAHAHA!"she says, knuckling a tear of mirth away from her eye. "Balance!"
Our children are both watching her, mouths open wide with fascination, their clothes scattered with pastry flakes. The normal business of serving customers has completely ground to a halt in the shop now, while everyone stares. Clearly, the best thing I can do in such a situation is to hastily leave it, so I turn on my heel to head for the cashpoint.
"Don't fall over!" she calls as I walk away. "HA! HA! HA!"
I grit my teeth. It is five steps to the door. As I take each step, she makes 'whoa!' and 'eee!' noises, to suggest that I am, indeed, on a tightrope, and struggling with my balance.
It is highly embarrassing. I am genuinely worried other people in the shop may burst into a round of impromptu applause as I exit, simply because I have managed to walk out without falling over.
As I leave, a man sitting at a table outside gives me a sad conspiratorial smile, and nods faintly in my wife's direction, from which I can still hear her giggling. I shrug.
With a faint tilt of his head he indicates his own wife, who is reading the newspaper beside him. He rolls his eyes.
With these four tiny gestures - the smile, the nod, the head tilt and the eye roll - I understand that he is trying to say: My wife does shit like that to me as well, mate...
I roll my own eyes heavenward, and shake my head sadly, as if to agree: Tell me about it - the things we put up with, eh?

Later, that night, I make the grave tactical mistake of mentioning this silent exchange to my wife.
This information is not well-received, though that may be in large part due to the way I tell her, which involves an initial, lengthy diatribe explaining exactly why her joke wasn't funny, and then ends with:
"..and then he nodded at his own wife, as if to say 'I've got one of those, mate'..."
There is a pause.
I can feel the room get colder, as if all the human warmth has suddenly and mysteriously been sucked out of it.
"One of those?" asks my wife, in a voice suddenly as sharp and brittle as an icicle.
"...ye-es?" I confirm, sensing danger, but unsure why.
"Did you just describe me as 'One of those?' "
"No...well, yes, sort of, but I just meant 'a woman like that.." I amend.
This, surprisingly, does not mollify her in any way.
"One of those..." she repeats, her voice gently climbing in register. "As if women are things. Like old cars."
"No, I meant he had a wife who..."
"What a terrible thing to say: 'one of those'..."
Now, the more astute reader will know that the correct response here is, of course, to say 'You know what, my darling? I am clearly in error here. Why don't I leave immediately to buy you some jewelery and chocolate in order to make up, in some small way, for my boorishness?'
I steadfastly fail to say that, though.
"It was just a slip of the tongue..." I offer
"Tell me," she says, changing tack: "What other 'ones' are there, then? As you are such an expert?"
Oh, this is really not going well, I think.
"What kind of 'one' would you like?' she persists, warming to the subject.
"Um...?" I offer.
"Perhaps a little needy 'one'? A little needy bunny-rabbit 'one' who wouldn't stand up to you?"
"No..." I say, but a little too slowly, and actually thinking that might be nice, just once in a while...
"You," she says, with a note of finality, "Are lucky to have one at all."
I know when I'm beaten. "Yes," I agree, readily enough.
"Least of all one of these" she adds.

4 comments:

Mark said...

Been there too - eyes to ceiling, nod and sigh as he writes...

Pat said...

Yeah, I've got one of th--

Err...I mean...you should be ashamed of yourself! And so forth.

Carol said...

Hahahaha, brilliant!!!

In my relationship it's not me who does the laughing thing...it's hubby and I get looks of sympathy from other women!! Perhaps I should get him to read this...then again...perhaps not...might start a fight!!

C x

Keith Wilcox said...

I am "one of those". I do that to my wife, who is quite most of the time. We'll be someplace and I'll just start laughing at some joke I made up myself. My wife gets all embarrassed and walks out on me. Yeah, I am totally "one of those" :-)