The Gandy Man

The husband has invested in some loungewear.

This is a big deal because:

a: the husband hates clothes shopping, least of all for something as insipid as loungewear.

b: he only purchases items he ‘identifies’ with. It’s hard to fathom exactly what this means. But let’s just say the husband doesn’t identify with garments very often.

c: Just like with fishcakes and cous cous (details here), the husband can ‘turn’ on items of clothing in an instant. For example, he was happily wearing a pair of leather desert boots from Ted Baker until last week, when he suddenly announced he had no suitable winter footwear at all. When I tried to get to the bottom of what was wrong with said boots, he simply said: ‘they are too shoey’. Shoey??

This is what we are dealing with.

But back to the loungewear. Loungewear, in case you’re wondering, is the name given to casual clothing worn around the home. For men, this involves some sort of elastic-waisted, pyjama-style pant (perfect for expanding middle-aged bellies), often teamed with a loose-fitting t-shirt.

For the last five years – possibly more – the husband has been rounging (Lancashire word for lounging combined with a bit of rolling) around in a tired old pair of Ben Sherman joggers.

To sport loungewear around the home and still look stylish is a tricky look to pull off.

Word on the street was that Derek Rose was your man when it came to cool loungewear. I’d seen swanky Derek banded about in Style magazine and other high-end fashion mags.

But a quick gander on Mr Porter (posh men’s clothing site revered by stylish 30-somethings) revealed that buying a pair of Derek Rose’s silky trousers involved parting with approximately £300! Surely there was other loungewear out there that didn’t involve re-mortgaging one’s house?

Luckily, there’s a man for whom stylish sleepwear at affordable prices is his speciality. Let me introduce you to loungewear lothario and king of the cotton trousers… David Gandy.


Gandy has been peddling his super-silky loungewear at good old Marks and Spenny’s for some time now but had somehow fallen under the radar.

We headed into town, the husband trailing reluctantly behind (muttering something about his moth-eaten Ben Shermans being perfectly functional for slovenly sofa surfing).

Pitching up at M&S, our favourite male model was very much dominating the men’s loungewear department. Take a gander at Gandy below (and spot the husband too!). This man isn’t just about shiny dressing gowns, six packs and smouldering looks; he actually purports to be a don in the ‘art of relaxation’.


The husband was dispatched to the dressing rooms with piles of Gandy’s garbs.

There was a long wait and then he called out, ‘I’m going to take them all.’

‘ALL of them?’ I said. ‘Are you sure?!’

‘I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life,’ the husband called back. ‘They’re just SO comfortable.’

Armfuls of Gandy pants purchased, we headed off for a drink.

‘I can’t relax,’ said the husband. ‘Because all I want to do is get home so I can change into my new loungewear.’

Driving back, we decided to investigate The Curious Incident of the Tartare Sauce Sachets.

A few weeks ago, during a visit to the husband’s grandparents, his Gran mentioned that she loved tartare sauce but was struggling to find it in the supermarket. I’m not sure why this is but for some reason tartare sauce is not an easy condiment to lay your hands on.

So, on the way home, I hopped on Amazon and before you could say ‘ta-ta’ (another Lancashire favourite!), 50 sachets of Gran’s favourite sauce were winging their way to her retirement flat in Preston.

A few weeks passed and I’d actually forgotten all about the tartare sauce delivery until one night I said to the husband, ‘don’t you think it’s funny that your Gran has never mentioned the tartare sauce we bought for her?’

There was a pause and then the husband said, ‘I know what’s happened.’

‘She’s received the sachets of sauce in the post and won’t know they’re for her. Right now, they’re probably sat on her kitchen worktop and she’s panicking, thinking they’re a mistaken delivery and actually for the restaurant downstairs.’

We phoned my mother-in-law. She confirmed that yes, Gran had received a mystery parcel of 50 sachets of tartare sauce, and yes, she didn’t believe they were for her and yes, she had been wracked with worry that she’d received them in error and would be hunted down for the money she owed.

Poor Gran had, in fact, barely slept for a week. My good Samaritan sauce deed had turned sour.

That night, the husband kept mumbling how luxurious his David Gandy loungewear was.

In the morning, we checked the label to try to get to the bottom of what made them so super soft. They were made of ‘modal’ – an undisclosed mixture of materials.

”It’s a mystery ingredient,’ said the husband. ‘Gandy will never reveal it. He’s the Willy Wonka of loungewear.’

The husband was reluctant to take his Gandy-wear off. He started making noises about wearing his lounge pants out of the house and had to be cajoled out of them.

Secretly, I think he might want to be David Gandy.



‘Perhaps David Gandy will branch out into outerwear,’ I said hopefully. ‘He’s already got swimming trunks and underpants; it’s only a matter of time before he takes his signature look outdoors’.

‘If anyone can, the Gandyman can,’ said the husband.

‘I feel like I’ve really identified with him’.

My Husband’s Eulogy To His Father

My dad always claimed to be five feet seven. In reality, he was only five feet five. But in my eyes, he was a giant. Distilling down the ingredients that defined my dad has been incredibly difficult for he was greater than the sum of his parts. The best bits of my character are all his doing and the worst bits are entirely my own. He never told me what to do, he showed me. He led by example. And so I followed in his footsteps, the footsteps of a giant.


His beginnings were humble, emigrating with his mum, dad and older siblings from Ireland to Preston in 1947. His was a working class Catholic family and they arrived with nothing, to seek a better life in England. My grandad was an old-fashioned Labour man and no doubt these socialist principles influenced dad’s later beliefs. He enjoyed school but finished at 15, without sitting his final exams. He was bright and had shown entrepreneurial flair throughout his childhood, wheeling and dealing from an early age and running the school tuck shop. He was hard-working too and growing up would regale us with tales of what he had to do before the school day started. This would include: getting coal for the fire, running a paper round and serving mass as an altar boy. All before the school bell even rang. This work ethic stayed with him until the day he died and he loved every second of his working life.

Leaving school prematurely meant incurring his father’s wrath. So rather than go home and ‘fess up, he found a job instead. He rattled doors in his local area and came across Bob Wellham who ran Globe and Simpson, an auto electrical parts distributor on Walker St. Bob asked him what religion he was, and on replying R.C, Bob – himself a strong Catholic – offered him a job on the spot working in the stores. He loved it. He adored buying and selling, had an excellent memory and an affinity with numbers, which made him perfect for the role. Growing up, I would marvel at my dad’s ability to reference any part code with the product and ironically, in later years, I fell into an equivalent position, just selling computer parts instead.


Aged 17, my dad and his friends would catch the train to Blackpool for a night on the town. And it was on this train that my mum and dad first caught sight of each other. He was wearing a 3 button shirt, dark trousers and black suede Chelsea boots, with a lustrous quiff of thick, jet-black hair. After disembarking the train and heading for the Tower they lost sight of each other and didn’t see each other again until catching the last train home later that evening. Keen not to miss the opportunity again, he asked her for a date at the pictures the following night. They went to The Ritz Cinema in Preston and he talked of his love of Ray Charles and Bob Dylan. Unimpressed, my mum enthused about Cliff Richard. It must have been love at first sight for him to forgive my mum’s taste in music. It became an annual joke in our family about who would swallow their pride and buy mum Cliff’s latest calendar at Christmas time. It was also a race to draw the first fake moustache on Cliff’s face, preferably around December – so we could enjoy the whole year knowing the vandalism was yet to be revealed!

They dated for a few years and on a summer holiday in Rhyll, got engaged and chose a ring in a local jewellers. After the initial flush of romance, my mum lost her nerve and feared her own mum and dad would think it too soon, so they kept their engagement a secret. Six months later, on New Year’s Eve, he had built up sufficient courage to ask my granddad his permission to marry his daughter. By this stage, my grandad was already very fond of dad and so happily gave his blessing and they were married the following year, in 1967.


During their 18 month engagement, my parents saved hard to find a deposit for their first home. My dad wheeled and dealed and they managed to afford a house in Harold Terrace, Lostock Hall. After marrying and honeymooning in Cork, they moved in to their new home with just two armchairs and a bed. They solicited gifts from friends and family and made their humble terrace into a family home. Within a year, their first son Gary was born and they were overjoyed. But sadly, before his 3rd birthday, Gary contracted Leukaemia and died. And so at the tender age of just 24, they had to endure the loss of their beloved child. Thankfully, they were able to rebuild their lives and were fortunate enough to go on and have three more children: Louise, Michelle and I.


My dad had steadily climbed the ladder at work and had become their youngest ever area manager. After 14 years learning his trade, he recognised the opportunity to start his own business and after a year of planning, he decided to take the leap. It was not without risk. My mum and dad had to sell their home, as did his business partner Bob Attewell as they pooled their resources to finance the start-up and rent some premises on the newly formed industrial estate at Walton Summit. Mum and dad then moved into rented accommodation on Daisy Meadow, Clayton Brook with their two young children in tow. My dad and Bob worked tirelessly and their new business, Leyland Auto, became a success. As the business grew, so too did his family and I was added to the clutch in 1979. The work/life balance was always a bone of contention for my mum but my dad’s time was only ever split between work and the family and he never made any time for himself. He did not covet material gain but sought the security and opportunity money could bring. The ability to help others in need and provide better life chances for his children were his driving forces. And for this he made huge personal sacrifices.


After living and breathing work for 35 years, when he finally sold the business retirement was not the most natural thing for dad. He took up golf, attended computer courses and finally did his Maths GCSE. He also learned a bit of Spanish, which he used whenever he was on holiday in France. Grandchildren soon arrived and he was a wonderful grandad to his 5 grandchildren: always playful, always affectionate and always fun. Just like he was as dad but with more smarties and chocolate buttons. The lure of work proved too strong though and he ended his life, just as his working life had begun back in the stores at Merlin Diesel. He loved his time there too, helping the business grow. The buzz of industry was in his blood and he was never going to put his feet up and relax. He was at his happiest dashing around and that’s exactly what he did until he fell ill.

And that is the bare bones of my father’s life but it gives little insight to who he was and how he was. So let me tell you about my dad.

He was affectionate and loving. He understood the value of a kiss and an embrace and was always demonstrative with his love. I have never ever not greeted my dad, as man or boy without a kiss and a hug. And the same at every bedtime I have spent at home for the past 36 years. He made it unambiguously clear that he loved you without condition and the security and self-worth this gave me as a child was immeasurable. Such love is the foundation on which you build your life as an adult, so thank you dad.


He was kind and generous, some would say foolishly so. He always rooted for the underdog and was prepared to lend a hand to anyone in need. And he did this on many, many occasions. People often thought my dad’s generosity was taken advantage of but they were wrong. He knew full well the risks. But always felt they were worth it. The risk of being let down or not being paid back was far outweighed by the chance of helping someone to better their circumstances or avert disaster.

He gave and never expected it back. And whatever the end result he would forgive easily and never bore a grudge. He understood the transformative power of having someone believe in you. His faith in others and trust that they would not let him down, inspired people to believe in themselves and changed lives. Everyone deserved a chance in my dad’s eyes and more often than not a second chance too. He gave quietly and without fanfare and many of the good deeds he did throughout his life are only coming to the surface now as those he has helped over the years have come forward to say thank you for acts of kindness we knew nothing of. We have received the most beautiful letters of gratitude and it has been a huge comfort to my family and I.

My dad was charismatic and could light up a room. He made a lasting impression on people. When he died the nurses wept and the paperboy cried. The doctor’s receptionist sent a card and even the lady at the dry cleaners sent flowers. He was charming and he was a gentleman and he’ll be missed by everyone who knew him.

My dad loved to play the fool and mock authority. He hated rules for rule’s sake and had a subversive streak running through him. He was rarely serious at home and was forever being silly, telling jokes and seeking out fun. Once, when in hospital following a blood infection many years ago, we peered at his notes as he slept in bed. Upon them we found written in a familiar scrawl, ‘Fine specimen of a man’. He couldn’t help himself even when ill!

He loved Christmas and Bonfire night and anything that celebrated the pure unbridled joy of being alive. I often think he loved children so much because he saw the world through the eyes of a child. He would snigger at the ridiculousness and pomposity of grown ups. He never lost his sense of wonder at the beauty of the world around him. Nor did he lose his faith in humanity. He remained an optimist no matter what life threw at him.


He was not flawless in every regard, however. He was absolutely useless at anything remotely practical. The only household duty to which he was entrusted was changing light bulbs and even then he struggled with the fiddly halogen ones. But all of my dad’s limitations were easily overcome by the goodwill of those around him, eager to repay a favour and help him out. He was also not the slightest bit artistic and his abilities in that department were limited to drawing a caricature of Elvis, which bizarrely resurfaced at the advent of his illness. He was found scribbling pictures of Elvis on the menu in a restaurant as the gravity of his illness hit home. It was heart-breaking and endearing in equal measure.

He was a father figure to many but it was I and my sisters alone who were blessed with the good fortune of calling him call him Dad. My whole life growing up my chest would puff out, as people would speak glowingly of my dad. I was then and am now immensely proud of him. He was quite simply my hero, my role model, my heart and soul. I will miss him with every fibre of my being but I will see that is legacy continues.

Dad, it has been a privilege to walk the last few steps of your life with you. For you to finally need me and have the opportunity to pay a fraction back in your hour of need has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have held your hand and given you comfort as I lost you piece by piece. My heart ached as I lost a little more of you each day but in the coming weeks we will rebuild you with the countless wonderful memories you have given us.

My father goes to his grave with no regrets and no enemies. As John Lennon once put it, a ‘working class hero’. He lived a life far beyond his dreams as a 10-year old boy. He loved and was loved. My own child will enter the world in just a couple of month’s time and despite never meeting you, they will always know you. For you are in me. When we go hunting for chestnuts in Autumn time, it’s grandad who will shake the tree. And when we ignite fireworks on Bonfire night, it’s grandad who will light up the sky.


I will miss you singing in the morning. Normally to your own lyrics.

I will miss your overly-theatrical sneezes.

I will miss the smell of diesel when you came home from work as a child.

I will miss the bristles on your chin as you kissed me goodnight.

I will miss your impossibly long answerphone messages.

I will miss your silly dancing in the kitchen.

I will miss you calling me at work and staring every conversation with, ‘Sorry to trouble you,’ as if you ever did.

I will miss bonfire night as you charged round the garden, perilously lighting fireworks and returning to half-spinning Catherine wheels.

I will miss the way you’d hitch your trousers up, over your tummy.

I will miss the smell of your aftershave.

I will miss you picking the vegetables out of your food.

But mostly, I will miss you calling me son.

It’s time to say goodbye now as you re-join you father, mother, sisters and brothers. And of course, the son you lost all those years ago. No amount of words can do you justice and I’m sorry if I’ve fallen woefully short. It’s been an honour to call you dad.

So for one last time, goodnight dad, and Gary: Daddy’s coming home.

The Half-Job Husband

The husband arrived home from work the other night. He walked through the front door and left it half open; he kicked off his shoes and left them in the middle of the hallway; he flung his damp gym towel over the nearest door to dry it but left it still folded up.

Welcome to the world of Half-Job Harry.


Half-Job Harry is the moniker I gave to the husband for never doing a full job on anything. I’m not sure whether other people have this problem with their partners but it drives me bananas.

Half-Job Harry does do jobs but he doesn’t do them thoroughly. He might, for instance, reluctantly change a lightbulb (a weekly occurrence in our apartment – what is it with these spotlights?!)

But once done, he will leave the old lightbulb on the side, the chair he used to climb in the middle of the room, and the plastic packaging from the new bulb strewn somewhere on the floor – while happily reclining back on the sofa, satisfied that he’s achieved a spot of entry-level DIY and his work is done.

Last month, after more persistent hen-pecking, the husband reluctantly sloped off to put some oil and screen wash in the car. He was gone for some time and he returned empty-handed.

It was only when I opened the car boot this week, that I found a big plastic box swimming with greasy oil and screen wash from where he hadn’t secured the bottles properly.

Half-Job Harry is usurped only by Put-Off Pete. Put-Off Pete likes to leave smelly bin bags by the front door because he will ‘take it in the morning’; he leaves paperwork to pile up on the kitchen worktop – because he will ‘deal with it next week’; and he leaves ironing on the side because he will ‘put it away tomorrow’.

Put-Off Pete came into play the other night when I asked the husband if he could nip down to the basement to quickly read the electricity meter.

‘I’ll do it at some point over the weekend,’ said Put-Off Pete.

‘At some point over the weekend?’ I cried. ‘It’s only Wednesday night. It will only take two minutes!’

‘If it only takes two minutes, you can go,’ said the husband.

‘You know I don’t like to go down there for fear of What Lies Beneath,’ I said.

What Lies Beneath is the name we gave to the eerie void underneath our apartments, which also houses the electricity meters – and probably several hundred super-rats.


For three years, we were oblivious to What Lies Beneath until we went on a mini adventure to sabotage SuDick’s carpet tiles (SuDick are our bothersome neighbours (details here) who insisted on laying carpet throughout the communal corridors. As part of our anti-carpet campaign, the husband and I decided to start stealing the stash of carpet tiles from the basement at the rate of one by one. We then frisby them off our balcony and into the valley below. This little game has become a lot of fun).

I think it’s fair to say that the husband does not like doing DIY. We were having a picnic in the garden of The House We Might Never Actually Live In the other weekend (we occasionally eat a Sainsbury’s £3 meal deal there – it’s the only picnic we can afford, given that the garden is costing a third of my monthly salary to upkeep), when the husband spotted a tree that had blown down in the wind.

If you look closely, you can see it perpendicular to the green conifer. I’m not quite sure what one does in the event of a felled tree – dial a tree surgeon?


The husband went for a closer inspection of said tree and started rambling about climbing up the wobbly-looking conifer next to it and CHAIN-SAWING it down.

For someone renowned for his inability to use a radiator bleeding key and who once had a particularly close shave with a circular drill that nearly took his eyebrows off, the idea of the husband willingly going anywhere near a chainsaw is a very frightening prospect indeed.

Luckily, Put-Off Pete soon jerked back into action.

The fallen tree’s been there for a couple of months now and thankfully the husband hasn’t mentioned it since.

His damp towel is still festering in his gym bag; there’s a pile of unread letters on the kitchen side; and the car’s been demanding more screen wash for at least a month now.

Basically, it’s business as usual.

Damned Designs

The husband and I have bought a house. It’s very pretty. I wish I could get a bit more excited about this new step towards Becoming A Proper Adult but there’s one big sticking point to it all.

When we bought the house, we rather rashly assumed it wouldn’t be a problem to renovate and extend it quite a bit.


Our new domicile had already been extended by the previous owners without any problems; there was no neighbours to speak off, except a few octogenarian bowlers; it wasn’t overlooked at all. We were planning on replacing the strange blue conservatory. Basically, our Kevin McCloud extension wouldn’t hurt anyone.


Unfortunately the council don’t share this view.

It all boils down to an over-zealous planning officer called Laura Hogg who has left no stone unturned in her quest to quash our plans and basically ruin our lives.

After rummaging through the planning archives in a dark council basement somewhere, she triumphantly claimed that our house is in a previously undistinguishable ‘green belt’ area of suburbia, and, as it has already been extended by the national law of 30 per cent volume since 1948, we are not to extend it by a single brick more.

This means: no two-storey side extension, no double garage, no all-glass kitchen diner at the back, no master bedroom overlooking the garden, and certainly no indulgent (but entirely necessary in the husband’s eyes) basement ‘media room’.


This news came as a very heavy hit.

Our future abode currently stands empty and dejected, a bit like its owners. Once a fortnight, I drive past it – simply to check it’s still there.


Occasionally, we wander wistfully around the garden and sometimes have a picnic. We have a new hedgehog friend too. He only has three legs.



Sometimes, I wonder if the husband and I will end up like my parents’ friends Pete and Enid, who bought a new house up the road from them and despite happily decorating it and pottering in the garden every weekend, have NEVER MOVED IN. This might not be quite so alarming, if they hadn’t bought the house 25 years ago.

My mother cycled past and spotted Enid in the garden the other week. ‘Will you be moving in soon?’ she cautiously enquired.

‘Moving in?!’ shrieked Enid, wild-eyed and terrified. ‘It’s nowhere near ready!’

The news from the council has left us with three options:

1. Find out where our nemesis Laura Hogg lives and knock on the door with a brown envelope stuffed full of grubby bank notes. If she refuses to accept this bribe, let down her car tyres in the dead of night.

2. Carry on living happily in our apartment, aka The Holiday Home, and do a ‘Pete and Enid’.

3. As Laura Hogg has now moved department, pretend the whole saga never happened and resubmit a scaled down version of the plans – with the insane notion that a different sympathetic councillor may give them the rubber stamp.

We decided to go for the resubmit plans/ bury-head-in-sand approach. According to our architect, crazier things have happened.

Last week, were given a new case officer: Peter Grant. I spoke to him on the phone. He has a very dry sense of humour and seemed quite positive.

‘Peter Grant has a humorous, ‘can-do’ attitude,’ I thought. ‘I’m all about ‘can-do’ attitudes. Maybe Peter Grant will be our saviour?’

I arranged to meet him at his office. I woke early that morning with all the anticipation of a first date. I needed to woo Peter Grant.

‘Whatever you do, don’t go for the brassy barmaid look,’ said the husband.

‘Have you ever know me dress like a brassy barmaid?’ I said.

‘Good point,’ said the husband.

Still, I couldn’t decide what to wear. I wanted to channel a mixture of innocent school teacher/ naive housewife/ simpering girl-next-door. It wasn’t an easy look to pull off.

In the end, I plumped for black leggings and a bright orange jacket, (avoiding the colour green at all costs).

Peter Grant finally appeared in the lobby.

He was younger than I’d imagined, casually dressed, with intense dark eyes and a brisk manner.

‘Sorry about that,’ he said, gesturing to the seat opposite him. ‘I’ve been embroiled in a series of office-based escapades.

Embroiled? Escapades?! I loved this man.

I wanted to yell, ‘I’m a WORDSMITH too!’

But instead I concentrated on the task in hand: hypnotising Peter into granting us full planning permission.

‘So what was the problem with the original plans?’ asked Peter, spreading the drawings on the table in front of him.

‘I think it was just the sheer size of it,’ I said, adopting an innocent tone and taking care not to mention the words ‘green belt’, ’30 per cent’, or ‘Laura-bloody-Hogg’.

‘Well, I can’t see any problem with this rear extension,’ said Peter.

‘We’re all about enhancement here and l like to impart good news on a sunny Friday morning,’ he added.

I did an inward whoop.

‘Great,’ I squeaked, thinking, ‘just kept smiling, maintain eye contact, and whatever you do SAY NO MORE’.

‘I’ll get the architect to re-submit the revised plans next week.’ I added.

One of two things is now going to happen: Peter Grant grants us full planning permission and gives our case no further thought. Peter Grant bumps into Laura Hogg at the water cooler, happens to mention the name of our house, and gets the full lowdown from Miss Planning Enforcer herself.

In which case, my only option would then be to start an affair with Peter Grant.

I updated the husband over dinner that evening.

‘It’s gone well up to now but just how far do you want me to take this? I said.

‘I might even have to SLEEP WITH PETER GRANT!’

‘You will have to do what’s necessary,’ said the husband.

‘But let’s face it, you’re no Demi Moore.’

Running On Empty

At 6.45am this morning the alarm goes off and the husband springs out of bed. No-one should have to rise at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday. But today the husband is running the Manchester 10k.

All weekend, the husband has barely even mentioned this race. But this morning, things are different. There’s a palpable tension in the air. He is stomping around, hunting for safety pins, Googling ‘what to eat before a big race’ – and even muttering about protein shakes.

‘I want you ready by 7.45am,’ he bellows in his best Drill Sergeant voice.

I’m a little taken aback by this sudden change of heart.

The reason the race has not been such a big deal up to now is that the husband went for a run about two weeks ago and managed to pull his calf muscle so badly he could barely walk.

This might be something to do with the fact that he sprang out of bed that morning, laced up his trainers and simply set off running – without so much as a sniff of a warm-up. Naturally, he refuses to concede that this is the reason for his calf injury. Real men don’t bother with pre-run stretches or warm-ups, says he.

Because of this injury, the husband had pretty much resigned himself to hobbling around the Manchester 10k today. There was talk of him pulling out altogether but he bravely said he would soldier on – limping around the course if necessary.

After much conflab at home, we finally set off for Manchester. The husband’s hands seem to be gripping the steering wheel tighter than normal. He appears pensive – and tense.

‘You seem to be taking this very seriously,’ I say. ‘Don’t forget you’re only jogging round, due to your injury. There really is nothing to be getting worked up about.’

‘I need to stock up on supplies,’ says the husband, suddenly swooping into the petrol station. ‘Energy drinks, ibruprofen, Pro-Plus…’

This doesn’t sound like someone who is merely partaking in a glorified fun run, I think.

Halfway into the car journey, the penny suddenly drops.

‘You’re not just planning on jogging round, are you?’ I say.

‘The workmates are taking it really seriously,’ wails the husband. ‘They’ve have been training for weeks. I just REALLY want to beat them!’

‘You’re injured and you haven’t done any training,’ I said. ‘You can’t possible compete with these people.’

‘If my calf can hold out, I think I’m in with a chance,’ grimaced the husband.

‘Last time, I did it in 42 minutes.’

‘That was five years ago,’ I said, ever the Voice of Doom. ‘And you were in the peak of physical fitness. You’ve barely run 10k this year and you’re limping like Keyser Soze.

‘I know what’s going on here,’ I continued, finding my stride. ‘You’re picturing a scenario where you rise like the phoenix from the flames – and sail past the workmates in a superman fashion, taking them all by surprise.’

The husband nods, looking sheepish.

‘It’s never going to happen,’ I say.


The husband meets up with the work mates at the starting line. They all seem very keen, talking of personal bests and training schedules.

I leave him limbering up and stretching out his weakened calves.

40 minutes and two coffees later, I decide to amble down to the finishing line to check out what’s going on. It was 42 minutes into the race and the elite athletes were beginning to filter through.

I was in no rush. In fact, I was busy picturing a scenario whereby I was one of the few spectators left, clapping in solitude, as the injured husband woefully limps at the rear – surrounded by people in wheelchairs and a man dressed as Big Bird. 

But just as I look up, the husband flies past! He looks in pain but is gritting his teeth in determination.

He beat rival workmate by 10 seconds; the rest by significantly more.

He came in the top 10 per cent of the runners.

He might have done irreparable damage to his left calf.

But the husband has never looked happier. And secretly, I’m a very proud wife.


Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook

The husband was half-way through his dinner on Wednesday when he suddenly put down his knife and fork and uttered the words I’d been dreading…

‘I’ve turned.’

Approximately once a month, the husband ‘turns’ on one of the meals in my depleting repertoire of culinary creations.

Chicken stir-fry, for example, was once an absolute weekly staple and the husband was quite happily crunching his way through chinese leaves and noodles for about a year, before he suddenly announced mid-chew, ‘I’ve turned. Please don’t cook this ever again.’

When the husband ‘turns’ on a meal, it means he will NEVER eat it again. This could happen with any meal at any time at any place. The mere sight of it, he claims, would instantly make him sick.

What do people actually eat? As an 80s child, raised on Alphabites and frozen chicken kievs, I’m genuinely intrigued by how people manage to come up with four or five unique – and relatively healthy – meals a week.

When friends come over for dinner, I usually dish up a fail-safe concoction of pizza, pasta and potatoes. It’s become affectionately known as ‘the carb-overload’.

This is how my mid-week menu currently looks: Monday – pasta with pesto and tuna, Tuesday – fish cakes with cous cous. Wednesday – chicken with cous cous. Thursday – pasta with pesto and tuna – or cous cous. It’s little wonder that most of our sustenance comes from Nando’s at the weekend.

As you can see, cous cous is the star of the show in our household. This isn’t just any old cous cous, mind. It’s got the beaming face of Ainsley Harriott on the packet. Cous cous is really easy. You put it in a jug, add 200ml of hot water, give it a bit of a stir… and Ainsley’s your uncle.


But I fear it’s only a matter of time before the husband turns on cous cous too. He’s already turned on the tomato and roasted vegetable flavours, which only leaves me with about two other options. Thankfully, trusty Ains – never one to rest on his laurels – has just released an intriguing new red onion and balsamic flavour, which has been given a tentative thumbs up from the husband this week.

Come to think of it, Ainsley’s gone a bit mad, in fact, and has branched out into a whole range of dried foods, including mushroom bulger wheat, lential dahl and vegetable spelt.


Spelt and dahl? I think Ainsley might be having some sort of breakdown. I haven’t tried them yet; I took one look at the cooking instructions and they seemed too complicated – something about simmering for 15 minutes. Still, I’m fearful that old Ainsley’s bitten off more than he can chew. Over-expansion could spell his downfall.

Along with the aforementioned chicken stir-fry, other redundant dishes now include: salmon pasta parcels (turned), lamb tagine (turned after a ‘funny’ piece of lamb), and shepherd’s pie (turned – found a lump in the mash topping).

And did I mention that the husband doesn’t eat most fish, any vegetables, or any form of potato, unless it’s roasted or cooked as a chip?

Strangely though, he does have a passion for Muller Crunch Corners. Actually, it’s more of an addiction. He’s on at least one Muller Corner a day – Vanilla Choc balls being a particular fave – and if there’s none in the fridge, he gets irritable and twitchy. I’ve taken to buying the bad boys in bulk (Sainos is your place).


Over Christmas, I over-stocked and there was a race against time to consume as many Muller Corners as we could before the impending sell-by date. My whole family were forced to consume at least two Corners a day before they went off. We even had to have a Muller Corner each on Christmas Day.

On Thursday, I went to Marks and Spark’s and randomly bought some lamb kebabs (they were on offer). I was a bit stumped on how to serve them so I dished them up with my old favourite… yep, you guessed it: cous cous!

This is what the husband was presented with after an arduous day at work.


Let’s just say, I don’t think I’ll be appearing on Master Chef anytime soon.

About two years ago, a new shop called Cook Shop opened up the road. It basically offers up frozen ‘home-made’ meals for lazy, cook-shy fools like me, at inflated prices. For a while, I thought Cook Shop was the answer to everything. We chomped our way through the whole menu and then got a bit bored with it all.

I might have persevered if the ridiculously effeminate man who runs it wasn’t SO annoying. He greets me at the door like a long-lost friend, then follows me around the shop offering to help with my basket and asking if I want to sample one of his new desserts, in the most irritating voice imaginable. I want to hit him over the head with one of his frozen lasagnes.

Thank god for cous cous king Ainsley.

Poo Diddy

It’s 3pm on Sunday and as we drive past a car garage, the husband decides on a whim he might want to buy a new sports car. 

This is classic behaviour for a man who has just reached 35 years of age, I think. So, for now, I am going to play along.

We enter the Porsche garage and the husband immediately sets about sizing up the car he’s after. I’m not sure what car it is exactly but it has the word ‘turbo’ in its title.

My limited experience of luxury car garages is that unless you arrive in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, wearing shades and lots of bling, you largely get ignored.

When the husband wanted to buy his last car three years ago, he walked into Leeds Audi to hand over the readies – and simply couldn’t get anyone to serve him.

This happened on two occasions and eventually we were forced to drive to Wakefield Audi, where there was no end of car salesmen queuing up to help us. Unfortunately, the one we ended up with was called Julian and had recently recovered from a nervous breakdown.

Here’s what we learnt about Julian: he has a phobia of tomatoes and instantly shakes and vomits at the sight of them; he can’t stop biting his nails; he appeared to know nothing about the cars he’s attempting to sell.

In fact, Julian was so useless that for some unfathomable reason, he forgot to input any of the husband’s optional extras onto the computer system so that the regional manager of Audi actually had to phone through to the production line in Germany to sort Julian’s mess out.

Still, we grew very fond of Julian and talk of him often. The husband is still planning on sending him an anonymous crate of tomatoes in the post as a thank you.

Back at the Porsche garage, in true form we stand around for about half an hour, patiently waiting for someone to see us. Eventually, the manager disappears into the back room and re-emerges with the most hapless salesman he can lay his hands on. This new simpleton goes by the name of Vinnie and is a thinner, more pudding-brained version of Vinnie Jones.

Inevitably, Vinnie has only just started working at Porsche and knows nothing about the model the husband is interested in.

‘He’s another Julian!’ I whisper. ‘It’s a code red. Evacuate! Evacuate!’

We say goodbye to Vinnie and climb back into the car. The husband concludes that although he likes the Porsche, he thinks he still likes his current car more, even though it is exceedingly dirty.

We arrive at the gym and I hand the keys over to the guys at the car wash.

An hour later, we exit the gym. Now that it has been washed and is gleaming again, the husband decides that he still loves his old car.

Having the car washed is the best £5 we’ve spent this year.

Still, I decide to surprise the husband with new number plate. This may be a foolish move, as the husband doesn’t like showy personalised number plates.

After a lot of delicate negotiating on the phone with a man called Dean (Mean Dean!), I finally close a deal on a plate with the husband’s initials.

There’s a reason I call him P Diddy and it’s not just his love of shower puffs.

1 PDD arrives in the post two weeks later. I proudly unwrap it and present it to the husband.


He squints at it for a while. ‘From a distance, I think it looks like 1 POO,’ he says.

I narrow my eyes.

‘I know what you mean,’ I said.

‘In fact, it looks more like ‘I POO’, he adds.

‘It’s not that bad,’ I said. ‘After all, everyone DOES poo.

‘I POO, you poo… we all poo.’

‘I’m going to be driving around in a car that announces to the world I POO,’ says the husband, shaking his head.

‘Oh dear,’ I say.

Fear And Loafing In London

The husband and I walked 20 kilometres around London on Saturday – just for fun.

I have a bit of an obsession with walking around cities. When I lived in London, I would wander around the streets for hours on my own like a vagabond, peering at unusual buildings and discovering new thoroughfares; I would set myself strange little challenges to get to places purely on foot.

The husband is less enthused about trekking for miles for no apparent reason. But over time, he’s begrudgingly become an hiking urbanite too.

On Friday, we walked to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Exhibition. (If you haven’t been, it’s ace. The images are awesome but you have to be quick: it ends this month.)


And then, during a wander through the tawdry tourist-trap of Leicester Square, our eyes fell upon this:


It was an advert for a play called Ghost Stories, with the tagline ‘You haven’t seen horror until you’ve seen it live’.

Have you ever seen two people look more fearful? Take a closer look.


The husband and I became a little obsessed by The Faces Of Fear (their terrified expressions were also plastered all over the tube too). So obsessed, in fact, that we woke up on Saturday morning and decided we wanted to see Ghost Stories ourselves, simply to see just how scary/ naff it actually was.

I tell a lie: the husband really wanted to see The Book Of Mormon, which by all accounts is one of the best West End shows in recent years. It’s also sold out weeks in advance. But every day at 2pm (and again at 5pm) they do a raffle draw for 20 random people to be offered spare seats for a bargainous £20.

Entering the raffle is quite a lot of fun in itself. You have to head down to the theatre in person, fill out an entry form and pop it into a giant tombola, while a slightly irritating thespian type bellows jokes to the assembled throng through a megaphone.

At 2.30pm, the theatrical joker started pulling names out of the tombola machine, with dramatic fanfare. As the names started being called out, a little part of me secretly hoped that we wouldn’t be chosen (after all the hype, I kind of had my heart set on Ghost Stories).

Looking at the hopeful faces of the crowd around me, I even started dreaming up a scenario whereby if our names were drawn I would rather grandly announce, ‘Of course, I’m pleased that I’ve just won two tickets to the hottest West End show of the year.

‘However, there’s a little play down the road called Ghost Stories that we simply can’t miss. Here, have my tickets.’

I started scanning the flock of people trying to identify who was most deserving of this over-blown gesture. I settled on two little old ladies, waiting patiently at the edge of the crowd.

Our names never got called.

At 5pm, we found ourselves crammed into rickety chairs at the edge of the stage in the ramshackle Prince of Wales theatre, awaiting the curtain call for Ghost Stories. These are the kind of seats you get lumbered with when you pay £20 for a last-minute ticket. Spooky music was wailing from the speakers; a sense of anticipation filled the air.

We even attempted to recreate The Faces of Fear for ourselves.


There was a warning sign stating that anyone with a nervous disposition should leave now. As the lights darkened, I started to feel a bit nervous. Just how terrifying was this spectacle going to be? Could my heart (which has recently become prone to palpitations after too much coffee) even take it?

Turns out, I shouldn’t have been worried.

It was dire.

Heard the story about the man who is driving through some woods when a ghostly figure suddenly runs out in front of his car? A few miles down the road, his car predictably breaks down, leaving him stranded with only a ghoulish figure for company who starts ominously tapping on the roof of his car.

Let’s just say this story is best left for round the camp fire: trying to recreate it on stage ends up being rather comical.

More silly stories ensued: the security guard who was on a night shift at an empty warehouse. After lots of creeping around and banging of doors, he then gets attacked by a… mannequin! Yes, one of those waxy shop window dummies suddenly comes alive and grabs him at the throat. Cue shrieks from the audience and chortles from the husband.

Jonathan Ross was clearly on drugs when described it as ‘awesome, scary fun’.

There was, inevitably, a weird twist at the end. At this point, I feel I should honour the old West End etiquette: that one should not give away the ending to other potential theatre-goers.

But let’s just there’s a reason why I tell my pupils never to end a story with: ‘It was all a dream.’

After Ghost Stories, we decided to work up an appetite with a three-mile stroll to Mayfair. What I love about London is you can just roam for miles, before stumbling into a darkened bistro to gorge on a three-course feast. Following this gluttonous binge, the husband suggested that we might get a cab back to the hotel.

‘A cab?!’ I said, incredulously. ‘But it’s a mere 2.5 miles back to the hotel.’

The husband sighed. And off we went again.

We strolled back through Mayfair; we sauntered across Trafalgar Square, saluting the Boris’s Big Blue Cock as we passed.


Finally, at the end of Fleet Street, the ghostly silhouette of St Paul’s loomed into view.

Back at the hotel, the husband declared himself so worn out that he could barely brush his teeth. I, meanwhile. eagerly checked my Jawbone UP band.

28,000 steps and 20 kilometres!


I went to bed very happy.

And then had a nightmare that I was attacked.

By a ghoulish mannequin.

The Duke of Wellington

Thought Hunters were the daddies of the welly world? Me too.

But allow me to introduce you to Aigle: the king of rubber footwear.


These bad-ass boots, handcrafted in France, turn everything you thought you knew about wellingtons (rubbery and er, green) on its head. I first heard whisperings about them in the last year or two (although they’ve been around since 1853).

But it wasn’t until the husband entered the market for a pair of new wellies this winter, that I knew there was only one brand I was going to turn too.

(Quick ‘foot’note here: Aigle are arguably usurped by French brand Le Chameau – the absolute crème de la crème for those in the know. But at £200+ a pop, you have to basically be Prince Charles to own a pair.)

Naturally, procuring a pair of Aigles wasn’t as straightforward as simply popping down to the local shoe shop (is it ever?). I won’t go into details but let’s just say it involved much internet research and a train ride to London. Excessive, I know.

I finally settled on a pair of Aigle’s ISO Parcours 2. With their neoprene surface, special ankle-hugging contours and anti-fatigue insulation, these water-repellant bad boys laugh in the face of puddles and sneer at cold toes.

The husband was a little sceptical about his new wellies at first. Like the electric toothbrush, I had to convince him that these really were WELLIES FOR LIFE.

But as soon as he’d paced around the lounge a few times, he deemed them incredibly comfortable and very warm (in fact there’s even been internet rumours of them being TOO warm. First world problem alert).

Today’s walk from Addingham to Ilkley was the perfect day to try them out: the first sunny day after two months of torrential rain.


If you’ve never been to Ilkley, I urge you to get in your car and head there immediately. It’s an attractive market town nestled in the Yorkshire Dales. There’s a Betty’s tea room, independent book shops and an air of English finery about the place. It’s little wonder that is was recently dubbed the happiest place to live in the UK.


We sat and ate a M&S sandwich on a bench outside Betty’s (the only downside to donning wellies for a muddy walk is that they don’t quite cut the mustard in posh tea rooms). Still, we love park benches (and there wasn’t a Pizza Hut pizza in sight!).


If there’s one criticism, Ilkley is trifle twee and a bit middle class. Heck, even the buskers appear to be straight out of the local grammar school.


Addingham is Ilkley’s little sister further up the River Wharfe: all bubbling brooks, cutesy cottages and waddling ducks.

photo-177 photo-176

The village is also home to the husband’s favourite-ever house: a Georgian beast of beauty that he believes he will one day retire to.


Anyway, before I digress into one of those smug ‘lifestyle’ blogs rambling on about bracing country walks and Gywnnie-style organic juices, let’s get back to the boots.

The husband bloomin loved them. He sloshed through sludgy mud, sploshed in bulging becks, and splashed in over-sized puddles.

photo-179 photo-180

As more and more walkers passed us in their hoi-polloi Hunters (moi included), he felt like the Duke of Wellington.

And then the inevitable happened.

Striding towards him – looking every inch the country squire in his flat cap and black Labrador trotting obediently at his heels – was a man, wearing… an identical pair of brown Aigle boots.

As he passed, the husband locked eyes competitively. They exchanged a knowing look.

‘He has your boots on!’ I whispered.

‘I know,’ said the husband. ‘And he knew that I knew he had!’

‘But did he know that you knew that he knew that you knew?’ I said.

‘That makes no sense whatsoever,’ said the husband.

Back in Addingham, the duke lingered longingly over the gate of his favourite house.


He might be the duke of wellingtons…

But he wasn’t quite the lord of Addingham.

La Dolce Vita

It’s Friday night and the husband arrives home from work.

‘Are we going to the Thai?’ he says.

The local Thai has become a Friday night fixture. We go so often now that the woman who runs it has begun to giggle inanely when we set foot in the door. She foists free mango sorbet upon us, and throws in the occasional basket of complimentary prawn crackers. We’ve taken to bowing to her with our hands clasped as we leave.

‘We could go for a civilised meal at the Thai,’ I said.

‘Or… we could roam down to our local grubby Pizza Hut, snap up a £5 pizza each on their ‘Special 5′ deal, and eat it on a park bench.’

‘Pizza on a park bench!’ says hubby.

We’ve developed a new hobby of eating pizzas on park benches, walls – and even one of those yellow grit bins at the end of the road. It’s a lot of fun. Go and try it. There’s something reassuringly back to basics about shivering on street corners, chomping your way through a pizza that you’ve managed to procure for a mere fiver.

If it takes off, it could even be developed as some form of middle-class therapy: kind of reconnecting with your youth. And I suppose you could go the whole hog and wash it down with a bottle of Diamond White while you’re at it.

After a couple of drinks at the bar up the road (the giant dog was in situ again. It was Friday night after all; he’s almost a regular now), we wandered down to Pizza Hut to collect our pepperoni feasts.

We were greeted by a portly man of dubious hygiene, who grunted and then disappeared into the back to forage for our pizzas. He looked like Mr Twit.

Our local Pizza Hut is basically a shed attached to the end of a row of shops, largely staffed by scruffy-looking students. It looks absolutely filthy and is probably over-run with rodents gnawing on left-over pizza crusts in the backyard. But when the pizzas only cost £5, you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you.

We wandered up the road, sat on a yellow grit bin and started working our way through the two medium-sized feasts.

‘I think I’m going to have half here and then half back at home,’ I said.

‘It’s an interesting strategy,’ said the husband. ‘My only fear is that it will be too cold by the time you get home.’

‘Not if you close the lid in between each slice and contain the warmth,’ I said.

As we greedily chomped away, two police officers came strolling towards us.

‘Evening, officer,’ said the husband, in a terribly British voice.

‘Evening, officer,’ I chirped.

The policeman and policewoman didn’t return our greeting, choosing to stare at us curiously instead.

I don’t know what is about encountering a couple of bobbies on the beat that turns one into an extra from Midsomer Murders. When I see a police officer, I immediately transform into a blustering buffoon, convinced that I’ve got something to hide.

As the police officers eyed us suspiciously, I had to fight the urge to say, ‘There’s nothing to see here officers: just me and my double pepperoni pizza. We don’t want any trouble!’

The police officers moved on and we ambled home.

‘Did you know that Philip Seymour Hoffman was found with 70 bags of heroin in his apartment? 70 bags! ‘ mused the husband.

‘It’s very sad,’ I said.

‘I think he might have been my favourite actor in the last 20 years,’ added the husband.

‘Really?!’ I said. ‘In all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never heard you so much as utter the words Phillip Seymour Hoffman, let alone proclaim he’s your favourite-ever actor!’

‘If was found dead in an apartment, I’d probably be surrounded by 50 empty boxes of double pepperoni pizza,’ said the husband, sadly.

Back at the ranch, the husband chewed thoughtfully.


‘Do you think that Pizza Hut tell people about the ‘Special 5′ deal or do you think they allow people to just stumble in and blindly order a medium-sized pizza for £9.95, knowing that they could get it for £5?’ pondered the husband.

‘I’ve no idea,’ I said. ‘But next Friday, let’s give it a go. We’ll go in pretending we don’t know about the deal and see what happens. And if hairy man keeps us in the dark about the deal, we’ll reveal all.’

‘Next Friday is Valentine’s Day,’ said the husband.

‘Even better!’ I said.