Served on a platter
By Chris Wilson
If we are married men, or men involved in a long-term heterosexual relationship our life is similar to the life that is led by a big fat salmon. We may be a sleek, muscular specimen, sprinting in from the mid Atlantic or we might be a bright pink fatty slab of a creature raised within the confines of a fish farm, but sooner or later our lives, if ended by hook or net, will probably end the same way. Poached, skinned, covered in aspic and slices of cucumber, it is likely that, at regular intervals, we will be presented to all and sundry by our good lady for her and the whole world to see. And guess what, there is nothing, but nothing we can do.
It simply is our fate and all too often it, we have no choice but to just lie there and accept what is about to come. I refer of course to such joys as ones partners’ birthday, anniversary celebrations, visiting in-laws, and a host of other celebratory beauties. What is a man’s role on such an occasion, not much really, except to pass over his wallet, calmly accept being totally out of his depth, and accept being mocked and ridiculed by every female who might be around. Where is the best place to start, try the wife’s birthday for size? Don’t worry gentlemen, this hurdles the lowest of them. all so let’s get jumping, the race has begun.
It may seem strange to start of with such a simple thing as a birthday, but it is important to do so, as it reflects one major female preoccupation that men very rarely understand. Starting with childhood celebration, and then progressing too the gleeful declarations of adulthood at the ages of eighteen and twenty one the progressive accumulation of the years would seem to offer few problems, but when both sexes reach approximately 36 years of age a dangerous division of age appreciation begins to occur. From this age onwards the aging process for men is very simple so lets get this out of the way before we move on to the more difficult areas to come.
From here up until their final demise men simply get old. They might not like the prospect, but with balding heads, bulging waistlines, and degenerating sexual potency, most men quietly accept that this is nature’s way, and therefore out of their control. So it is that their birthdays pass by relatively quietly, and so long as they receive reasonably respectable presents, periodic doses of booze, live or recorded televised football, and a touch of fun and frolics they rarely complain. As a result most men physically and mentally fade away, and birthdays become of little interest as the years go by. Of course there are the narcissistic mirror gazers amongst us for whom such natural progression is unacceptable, but overall the more common approach suits most women as it leaves them free to concentrate on what is happening to them. This is actually a good thing for most women, as, for them, things now get rather complicated.
We will see in the next chapter how the advancement of the years is particularly difficult for women, especially as regards physical depreciation, but emotionally and psychologically aging it seems to offer an even greater challenge for the average woman concerned. For most women it seems that time and aging, after a certain age, takes on a slightly variable character. From their mid thirties until their mid fifties their inner body clock can apparently slow down stop, reverse, or go wherever it damn well likes. The rate at which such peculiar movements occurs is, of course, highly variable and dependent on such factors as the depth of a woman’s or a partners purse, access to remedial beauty treatments, body enhancement or remodelling, collusion by ones partner or friends, and of course bare faced denial. Now this is fine for the individual woman concerned, as it is her body and her time line, so she can do whatever she wants, but what of the guys that happen to be living with her, what are these poor devils to do during such a time?
If a couple get together at a relatively young age then life, as regards either of their birthdays, is generally good. Often deeply in love, and relatively oblivious to the march of time, they often shower each other with a huge range of presents so, generally, happiness reigns supreme. Then things go wrong. Very often the first thing he will do is to forget it’s her birthday. This only happens once, but does he get to know all about it, over and over again, and often over an extended period of time. Whether she actually wants to be reminded that, even for her, time is passing is totally irrelevant. It’s her birthday, and it is his job to recognise the fact and then to treat her accordingly. Tough luck if he has things like mortgages, household expenses, and crippling debts to worry about, that is not her concern, or at least not on that day anyway. So it is that, not for the last time, her finds himself in the doghouse, what is he to do then? The answer it might seem would be to initially placate his now vengeful wife, and then try to better next time, but remember, she is in her mid thirties now, the rules are beginning to change.
If he has forgotten her birthday then immediate reparations are of course not only advisory, but almost obligatory, especially if he wishes to carry on living, so for the sake of our story let us assume he has survived only to face another one her birthdays, what action should he take then? Logic dictates that he should repeat the same process as last year, albeit making sure that he gets the day and date right this time. Sure he messed up last year, but he got there in the end, and the magnum of champagne with the huge box of handmade chocolates slid down her throat very well. There is however one problem. He has noticed she is a fraction twitchy about her age, so what will happen if his aim goes awry?
Obviously he knows he cannot ignore her birthday, but how much fuss should he make of her? Too little fuss and she may say he doesn’t care, too much and she will probably say that he thinks she is old. So, not for the last time in his marriage, he faces a rather tricky predicament. It is one that he had better get used to very quickly, as he will probably have to face it for at least a further twenty to twenty five years. Additionally he faces another problem. What exactly he should get her on that oh so special day? He cannot keep on buying her booze and chocolates, her liver and waistline would take it for long, but he as sure as hell knows that he cannot ask her to guide him. He has tried that already, much to his pain. He asked, she answered. It’s not important, she told him, just get me something small, anything will do. He got her a new Mp3 recorder; she wanted a 22ct diamond-encrusted eternity ring. That was one very unhappy day indeed.
So we come to the end of our exploration of birthdays. Is it the same story for all couples, of course not, some couples miraculously manage quite well, but as we progress through the chapter we will see how this question of age runs through everything. Sometimes it runs deep, at other times it is a thunderous waterfall, but it is always there. Now we turn to wedding anniversary celebrations, or any other celebrations of a similar nature, what position do men and women adopt there?
We have already seen that being in a long term relationship can prove somewhat tricky but at least if you are able to avoid separation, suicide, or murder, then potential annual joys await that might be enjoyed by one and all. I refer of course to anniversaries; to those special days when joy peace and harmony come together and couples sometimes succeed in remembering just what is what they did all those years ago. In times past long term marriage was generally celebrated, now it is more often divorce, but we are lucky, as we have Bob and Sue. It is their wedding anniversary, so let’s join them as they celebrate their happy day in style.
Something is wrong though. The room is silent; Bob is sitting white faced, on the sofa whilst Sue, standing above him, is angrily looking on. This seems strange at first but look on the table in front of them; there is only one anniversary card, and only one present, and both of these are from Sue. He has forgotten it’s their anniversary, God help him, so now Sue will act judge, jury, and executioner; she just not to sure what his sentence will be! She knows it will be painful, and she knows that he will remember it for years; there just seem to be so many options to choose from!
It may seem that any punishment is entirely justified, but even the most vile of criminals is allowed his say in the dock before judgement is passed, so lets see what Bob’s defence, if any, might actually be. His defence rests upon three basic arguments, all of which, he feels at least partially negates any punishment that Sue may wish to confer. His opinion of the actual married date, as we have seen before, varies from her, and such a difference of opinion has always been a mild bone on contention that has never really been resolved. Up until now it has never really been an issue, but now their marriage is in its sixth year an irreversible division is beginning to slowly grow. The marital and therefore anniversary time line is increasing year by year but, in Bob’s mind the importance of an already mundane day is decreasing at an equal speed. Additionally life for both has inevitably become more complicated, so such a divergence of both relative speed and direction seems, in his mind, to be picking up speed all the time. Finally Bob feels that by continual little yet considerate shows off affection, one day of the year should really not be that important. However he knows that such an annual recognition is important to Sue so this next problem comes into view. What kind of a present should he buy her?
She has had the jewellery, the holidays, and the special meals, so now he is running out of ideas, and even if he has a great idea should he pursue such an option? Too small a present and it will seem that he doesn’t care, to big and it might dangerously remind her of her relentlessly advancing age. His final problem though is a real beauty and to his mind sums up all that has gone before. On their last anniversary he luckily found her perfect restaurant, and she has been dropping strong hints that she would like to go there again. This should be no problem, but over the course of the year he has forgotten what the restaurant is called, where the wretched place is, and what kind of food was being served. Even worse Sue will not give him any clues, despite his carefully constructed enquires. If she would help him then at least some of the damage could be prepared. She has not done so, as we see, he now sits surveying the wreckage of the day, not quite knowing what to do.
So ends his defence, what has Sue, got to say. As far as she is concerned he has, as normal, got everything wrong.
To her the marriage day was of paramount importance, and where he sees a separation of the actual day and it’s remembrance, she only sees a strengthening convergence of the two. She recognises and truly appreciates his continual shows of affection, but cannot accept that such tokens lessen the anniversary day itself. Then comes the presents, and here she feels he is being remarkably dim. He should know what to get her, she has been leaving him coded messages for months now, but at the same time he should be aware that she is feeling slightly sensitive about her age. Her real gripe though is that all so important meal. He seems to have forgotten the first time that they went there, and then, to add insult to injury, he has failed to spot the hints and reminders she has been dropping all around him. She has left out the towns street guide and the business guide, she has cooked him several dishes which were similar to those on the menu, and even bought him a bottle of wine of a similar nature to the one they enjoyed. What has he done in return?
Waffled on about days gone by, and about several meals and evening they have both enjoyed. So what is the final result of all of all her endeavours? No present, no card, no special restaurant, and no food but a reheated cottage pie and beans. Sue is furious with Bob, but she does not need to immediately think about planning her revenge. This is a dish that Sue has always preferred to be served and eaten cold, so after denying him his eagerly anticipated customary anniversary treat of intimacy, she quietens down, and life carries on much as before. This is only the lull before the storm though for soon, all to soon, he hears is a rattle of the letterbox flap, and down drops a letter that Sue has been quietly waiting for. She has known for some time that her cousin Marketa has wanted to get married and now, at last, she has set a date for her wedding day. She is getting married in Prague so, of course, the pair of them must go. Sue smiles, gently rubs her hands, and begins to think about wedding dresses, hats, hair appointments, and manicures, and Bob trying to speak her language, let alone first class travel on the most expensive air flight possible. Why is she smiling, it is very simple. Bob can barely speak her native mother tongue, her cousins all know what has been going on, and as regards the rest, well; Bob is going to pay for everything, absolutely everything. By God how she is going to make him pay1
We have already seen how a couples wedding day is rapidly hijacked by a huge variety of interested parties, but behind such obvious interference there are even more sinister forces at work. These forces also apply to a whole variety of celebratory days, but let us stick with a wedding day, as what occurs throughout the day is a perfect reflection of the areas we have been discussing already. The first thing to appreciate is that though pride of place is officially given to the bride and groom, there are almost bound to be a number of guests present, and that some of those guests will discreetly wish to show the happy couple that they are not the only ones who can shine. Do both men and women work this way, occasionally yes, but more often than not it is the ladies who, accidentally, try and take centre stage. Bearing this in mind how are Bob and Sue preparing for her cousins special day?
In summary Sue is going shopping, while Bob, dragging behind her, is ready and waiting to pay. On reflection it might seem that his biggest problem is learning Czech, and the airline tickets, but though they are big problems, other factors lie deep within his wallet and his mind. What he cannot accept, or understand, is why she needs a new dress when she has so many already, why she is demanding he gets dressed up like a dog’s dinner, why she needs a hideously expensive west end three hour hair and facial appointment, and finally why she is getting so paranoid about shoes. If she was the bride that would make sense, but this is her cousins day, not hers, so why should she want to put on such an expensive show.
Sue of course knows exactly what is going on, but she is damned if she is going to put Bob in the frame. As far as she is concerned Her cousin needs a subtle reminder that though she is the bride, and technically eight years younger than Sue, she is not necessarily the belle of the ball. Officially Marketa will be queen for the day, and Sue will verbally acknowledge this fact to the best of her ability, but like any other woman there, who is still fertile, such trivialities will not be allowed to rule the day. Sue may be married, she may be older, by a couple of years, and she may well drag along Bob to demonstrate just how marriage life is or should be, but she has never as yet played second fiddle to any woman, and she is certainly not going to start scratching out such a melancholy tune now. She is going to play a different tune, and it will be one of her choosing, and so she is going out to hold back or reverse the ravages of time. As every woman knows, and as no man will ever understand, she must have a new dress, hairstyle, facial, hat and matching shoes. The bride’s big day must be so honoured; after all, it’s all a question of style.
Are there any other games that are being played on the day? Certainly there are, and most of them are equally subtle. How many bridesmaids subtly ignore the bride and wistfully dream, or avidly hunt, for a guy of their own, either permanently or temporarily as the case might be. How often do we see a catfight to get hold of the casually thrown bridal bouquet, and finally what of the older women who quietly stand to one side; do they have a story to tell. Of course they do, and that is a story of survival. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt; that is what is on their mind, and the wonderful knowledge that it is now some other poor woman’s pleasure to go through what is to come.
We have been through one wedding, and one is quite enough, but in brief all went well. Sue, like every other woman at the wedding, proved her point to Marketa, Bob was suitably paraded before one and all, and suitably humiliated; and afterwards Sue returned refreshed and triumphant to the family home. Why was she so refreshed, because it was all free of course, remember, Bob was picking up the bill, but now we join him again six months later, just as he is about to open their front door. It is Christmas now and his in-laws are coming to stay. Never mind he has survived her birthday, Marketa’s wedding, and the forgotten anniversary, surely no more can go wrong. Little does he know that his biggest challenge is yet to come.
Now lets get one thing absolutely clear. Not all in-laws are repulsive, not all father- in-laws try and hide from their spouses, and not all mother-in-laws have been spawned in hell; it only seems that way; especially to a son-in- laws who has recently forgotten his wedding anniversary. Additionally Christmas can be a wonderful time, and some extended families actually get on very well. Such happy memories and comforting thoughts are not part of our story though, so let us concentrate on Bob and Sue’s yuletide celebration, this is one of several annual performances, and it is just about to entertain us all. So let us quietly step back into the shadows, and popcorn in hand let us enjoy the show. The first thing we need to do is to look at how the four characters in our little play have developed over the last six years, and how their entwined relationships have grown during this time. As the houselights dim, the curtain open, and the first people we see are Bob and Sues father. They are standing to the left of our stage.
They really are quite sweet these days as Bob and his father-in- law now get on very well indeed. Now Bob even calls him by his first name, which is Radek. He was at first wary of Bob, as despite Sue’s avaricious desire to exercise within the family home, she was still his daughter and she played daddy’s little girl to perfection, when she so desired. Now things are different as both guys now face a common foe. Their foe is of course their respective wives, but now all four are together Bob and Radek realise that Sue and her mother, Lida by name have joined forces, and that now there is a new force field on the scene. As such they are slightly nervous and even more so when Sue and her mother enter the set, and move centre stage. Once more it’s fun to see how both sets of players behave.
The set is of course Bob and Sue’s front room. It has been tastefully decorated in traditional Czech style in accordance with Sue’s country of origin, and as the candles throw their slightly smoky light across the evergreen bedecked room, Czech carols softly hint then welcome in the festivities to come. All it seems is as it should be, so why then are Bob and Radek so apprehensive, and why are Sue and Lida glaring at them so hard. The answer is simply the pursuit, attainment, and usage of power, and if the forthcoming fortnight is to be a success then Sue and Lida know that Bob and Radek have to be kept firmly under control. They also know however that their respective spouses should be unaware of their intentions so, a careful planning needs to be made. We will look into the mind of Sue and Lida in a moment, as a double game is operating there, but first lets go to Bob and Radek, do they really need to look so worried.
The answer is both yes and no, but overall they are facing both a simple and possibly pleasurable Christmas, so long as they behave. They know, from experience, that so long as they appreciate whatever food is put in front of them, fix the Christmas tree lights, pay for everything, and remain totally loyal to their respective wives; then all will be well. They do have two small problems though, and neither of them will easily go away. Bob has told Radek about his recent absentmindedness, and though Radek has managed to avoid such a mishap, he is aware his own wedding anniversary is very soon, and he still hasn’t any idea what to buy Lida. Additionally neither of them knows whether Sue has kept Lida informed of the facts. If she hasn’t they both know it will only be a question of time before such revelations occur. Conversely the dirty deed might have already been done. If so this is one Christmas that is going to be remembered for years. They look once more towards Sue and Lida and instantly they know what to do. They decide to do what all men have decided to do over a great many years. They decide to play the fool and the child that their spouses already believe them to be. So they smile, giggle, and look for any signs of early remission or some kind of parole, through which this potential nightmare may come to a premature end.
Of course Sue has told Lida about the anniversary fiasco, and they know that Radek has been keeping quiet all the time. In time both husbands will receive a joint punishment for such perfidious treachery, but the reasons for their current irritation are a little bit closer to home. Sue loves her mother and only wishes her well, but this is her house and she is just a little irritated by the way that her mother feels that she can interfere. Beginning with the six year scan of Sue’s unrelentingly slim waist line, carrying on with indelicate hints about desiring to be a grandmother, and ending with soft yet derogatory coded messages about Sue’s housekeeping abilities, Sue is already cross and tired. This is only day one however and, so far, nobody has entered the kitchen, that joyous scenario has yet to unfold. What Sue cannot see, according to Lida, is that Lida has every right to be annoyed.
Of course she has the right to check her daughters waistline, that is every mother privilege as regards her daughter. How long must she wait to become a grandmother, after all it has been six years? Maybe something is wrong, possibly Bob is failing in his marital duties; surely it is her duty to enquire. Finally she really has been very kind about Sue’s housekeeping. She has made one or two comments, but they have been warm, helpful, and constructive; nobody could possibly have taken offence at what she has been saying. Never mind, they are joined together in one common complaint. They are both looking towards their respective spouses for their support, and nothing seems to be coming back in return. It is true they haven’t actually told Bob and Radek what has been going on, and it is equally true that they have no intention of doing so as it is Christmas, but they still feel that their individual complaints are correct and that their spouse should both realise what they are and then support them to the full. So why is it then that all Bob and Radek do is to just sit there and grin inanely. Some support they are going to be over the festive period, think Sue and Lida, and angrily they turn away and move into the kitchen.
The kitchen door closes behind them and Bob and Radek heave a huge sigh of relief. They know further battles lie ahead of them, but for know they can relax. They exchange a few muttered notes and then quietly turn on the television. There is a game of football being shown, they grunt happily, flop on the sofa, beer in hand, and begin to watch the game. All is therefore quiet in this part of the household, but what is going on in the kitchen, is life as peaceful there?
Two women in too small a kitchen can be difficult at any time, but throw extra special food into the equation and far greater problems can emerge. Add to the already bubbling pot the fact that both women are annoyed and by nature incredibly stubborn, and that two full Christmas dinners need to be prepared, and the pot rapidly rises too the boil. What is also a factor is that one meal is of a traditional Czech nature, while the other is wholeheartedly English, and both of them are to be served in less than twenty-four hours. If both cooks could agree on who should be in charge, what was being cooked, and when and how such food should be served; then things would be fine, but no such solution can be found. Sue has been trained by Lida, but she knows that, being in the prime of her culinary life, she is now a much better cook so any food selection and management issues should be left to her. Her mother may help her of course, after all the potatoes need scrubbing and the seasonal fresh water carp, now swimming in the sink, still needs to be killed, scaled and cleaned, but beyond that Sue is resolute that she should be in command. Lida however holds a different view.
Sue would be lost without her in the kitchen, she has tasted Sue’s food before, and Lida, being the expert Czech cook that she is, certainly should not grant control of the kitchen to her chit of a daughter who seems to have forgotten everything that her mother taught her. She is ready to concede that, technically, the house and therefore the kitchen is Sue’s and not hers, but she has not travelled hundreds of miles to scrub potatoes, or to kill and then prepare her daughters carp. That, in Lida’s view is the job of the host or hostess, she is a guest and therefore should not be involved. So it is that a standoff prevails, then, joining hands they smile and move towards the door. Why not pull in one or both husbands; after all they are only watching a silly old game. They open the door; imagine their annoyance when they not see their spouses casually lounging, but also drinking a can of beer. How dare they be so idle, and anyway, if they have got beer where is Sue’s and Lida’s glass of wine.
Both husbands feel both nervous and angry, and some might say justifiably so. Nervous because they know that both of their spouses will demand their automatic support, and angry because after being told to keep out of the kitchen they are now going to be told, at any second, to get in there. Additionally football has never been nor ever will be a silly old game, despite its historical lineage, and this particular game is very good, so they both know where they would rather be. They are even more annoyed when, upon entering the kitchen, they see an ugly old disgruntled carp frantically swimming around. Imagine their disgust then when they are commanded to kill the hideous looking thing. Bob bluntly says that he is English, the carp is part of a Czech custom, and therefore it is nothing to do with him. Radek also refuses saying that; historically, this is not his job. He then raises the stakes by saying that such duties should be performed by the hostess and not by visiting guests, but, he adds kindly, this is Bob’s final decision so he has to make the call. So it is that Bob, who now wants to kill everybody in the room, finds himself in an appalling position, and it is a position that a lot of men find themselves in when the in-laws come to stay.
He is caught between multiple stools and no stool seems particularly inviting. All such items of furniture seem to be covered in extremely spiky nails, all the owners or occupants of those stools are firmly stating loyalty and precedence over the other, and all such parties want an answer now. Under such circumstances what is a man to do? Basically he surrenders his pride and his dignity, the same as nay man might do. He swears at all and sundry, grabs and kills the carp, throws it between the Sue and Lida, distances himself from any further involvement, and then gets out of the room before running off to the pub where he knows there are kindred spirits, and a huge wide screen high definition T.V. Radek, who has been sent out to get him, joins him shortly and apologises for his actions but, as he says, that is the privilege of being a guest, and having more experience than Bob he is faster, if need be, to dodge any marital bullets and to cut and run. He buys Bob a couple of rounds, all is forgiven, and the two of the stay there, well out of harms way. They know from experience that it is easier that way.
It is a good thing they have done so, as all too soon a new battle emerges between Sue and Lida, and it all revolves around three basic principles. If you are Czech family the main meal at Christmas is on Christmas Eve, and when you have your meal it is almost mandatory that, for the main course, you will or must have fried carp and fresh potato salad. It is also a fact that that the lady of the house makes the perfect combination of the two, whilst any other such combinations, cooked by some other woman, is absolute crap. Finally such a lady will always pick the finest of all products for such a meal, and that her skill in product selection far outweighs anyone else’s skill at doing the same. These three rules are well known throughout world wide Czech communities, and embrace all living souls including mothers and mother in laws; or that is Sue’s story anyway. As such she is understandably livid when Lida starts to interfere. First Lida intimates that the potatoes look too old, then that the mayonnaise is possibly off, and does Sue really wish to include so few vegetables as part of that dish? Then she adds insult to injury by suggesting that Sue might not only need a little more fish, but that the fish she has prepared is possibly sub standard and that it could do with a little more seasoning.
She does not actually state such things of course, after all it is her daughters kitchen and therefore Sue is in charge, but she would hate to see such a special meal spoilt by such minor details. Furthermore, she murmurs, might not Sue wish to benefit from all of Lida’s vast culinary skill knowledge and experience? Sue just glares at Lida and then tells her, oh so sweetly, that it is her kitchen, she is the boss, the carp needs no seasoning, the potatoes and mayonnaise are just fine, and if her dear mother doesn’t shut up any additional vegetables may well find themselves inserted up or in a place where no vegetables were ever intended to go! Lida is off course deeply insulted, as any mother would be, and retires to one corner in a huff, saying that she is only trying to help and that Sue shouldn’t be so sensitive. Never mind the meal is eventually cooked and eaten, and mercifully the day draws peacefully to a close.
As morning beaks trouble, once more, starts afresh. It is Christmas day, and it is Bob’s turn to nominally rule the roost. They are going to have an English Christmas day dinner, so as he is the only Englishman present, Sue reckons it is his job to stuff and prepare the turkey. Bob calmly states that how the hell can he do when he has been barred from the kitchen, but Sue fires back by saying that though she is prepared to cook eight different types of vegetables, there is no way she is going to stuff her hand and arm up the backside of a long dead turkey.
Thus his last one and only moment of control comes to an end, and now we find him stuck in the kitchen, wearing a frilly apron, and with one hand deeply embedded within the bird. His other hand is covered in stuffing, while at his back a festering brew of turkey giblets is boiling to fit to kill. What happens next? Sue comes in and asks him to pour a round of drinks so that the festivities might begin, and can he please hurry up as everybody wants to unwrap their presents. Bob, quite understandably lifts up both of his hands, and of course, the turkey, and asks just how that is to be done. Sue just shrugs her shoulders, mutters about multitasking and the duty of a host, and then walks out of the room. Bob is of course left stranded and there is nothing that he can do. Mercifully he has been here before, so taking swig from a bottle of brandy he has carefully secreted away, he clears up the best he can, stuffs the bird into the preheated oven, whips off the apron, and going out of the kitchen, he prepares to join the fray to come.
Why is he so relaxed, well why not. Like any married man he has known his place and his role within the marriage and at Christmas for years. It is not a role he particularly agrees with, and the presence of his mother-in-law certainly has added a degree of spice and piquancy, but such is his life and the life of every other married guy he knows so, what the hell, it is easier to just go to the flow. Will there be any other surprises to come; only the presents, that all, just those long-awaited and carefully chosen gifts that he and everybody else so enjoys.
It is debateable whether any married man has ever bought or chosen a present that his wife really appreciates, but even if he has managed that particular miracle, then he will know that such a choice gets harder as every year rolls by. If his mother in law is in town then it only gets worse, as should he get a better present for his wife, should such gifts be equal, or should he respect his mother-in-law’s claim to superiority and risk his wife’s wrath for weeks or months to come. Additionally the already stated rules of birthday gifts also apply so when all elements put together they make a rather nasty brew. What is Bob’s solution? It really is quite simple.
Prior to Christmas he gives Sue a blank cheque book and tells her to go out and buy, and when it comes round to Lida they chose the most acceptable yet subversive inappropriate present they can find. Lida of course has known about this for years, and now she wants her revenge, so when the presents are opened we find Sue holding a bible about pregnancy and life clock progression, and Lida holding a book on better sex for the over sixties. This, of course, results in a long period of silence, but overall Sue and Bob have come out as victors. They know they still have plenty of time, but they know, as Lida knows, that though not forty-five, as she claims, Lida certainly has not reached the age of sixty. Where is Radek by the way? Oh he’s there all right, and he is laughing fit to kill. He has already got his annual bottle of malt whisky, so like any seasoned campaigner he knows that, just for once, he is in the clear. This is one battle where he can sit back, relax, and enjoy what lies before him, as well as anticipating what will soon slide across his tongue.
“Merry Christmas everybody!” he chortles.
”Merry Christmas and a happy new year”
Everybody looks at him in silence, but Radek doesn’t care, and he carries on laughing. He has waited years for such an occasion, and now, being the victor, he is enjoying the spoils.
Other presents were of course exchanged, with the normal degree of simulated joy and thanksgiving, but on this happy note we close the chapter and turn to pastures new. I would love to report that such a pasture is lusciously green, bathed in sunshine, and positively bursting with butterflies and buttercups. Unfortunately this is not so, as a far more desolate scene awaits us. Now we look at living with the inner woman, and what a mysterious and sanguinous worlds this turns out to be.