- I eat two-fingered Kit-Kats like I'd eat any other chocolate bars of that size, i.e., without feeling the need to snap them into two individual fingers first. Margret accused me of doing this, 'deliberately to annoy her'.
- She really over-reacts whenever she catches me wearing her underwear.
- Margret's four-hundred-and-fifty-second most annoying habit is to stealthily turn off the central heating (then light the gas fire in the room she's in, natch). I'll suddenly notice that, sitting typing at the keyboard, I can see my own breath while from the bedroom one of the kids will call out, 'Papa, I can't feel my legs...' And I'll shiver down the stairs to find the central heating set to 'Summer/Hypothermia/Cryogenic Suspension,' and Margret in the living room watching the TV in a door frame warping furnace.
- A Few Concepts Margret Continues To Have Trouble Assimilating:
- It's possible to stop buying plants.
- Can you please leave me alone, I'm on the lavatory.
- Ikea is just another shop.
- I asked you if you wanted any, I asked you - now stop eating it off my plate.
- One may have a thought and not say it. This does not make me insular, it merely separates me from you and that mad woman who's always shouting at the pigeons outside the supermarket.
- They're just nail clippings. Nail clippings must be the most inert thing on the planet, how can anyone seriously have a problem with nail clippings? You might as well freak out with, 'Bleuuuurrggh - helium!' Really - just get a hold of yourself. So you've walked barefoot across the bathroom and you find this has resulted in a nail clipping or two sticking to the bottom of your foot; well, simply brush them off into the bin - they're just nail clippings.
- The Terror Of Lids: Yes, the rewards are high, but it's a game where the price of defeat is savage. Sometimes Margret, after grunting with it herself for a collection of 'hnggh's, will hand me a bottle or a jar that has a screw top along with an impatient, 'Open that for me.'
If the gods lie content in the skies above England at that moment, then what follows is a rapid flick of my wrist, a delightful 'click-fshhhh' gasp of surrender, and my handing the thing back to her FEELING LIKE A HERO OF NORSE LEGEND.
Generally, though, what happens is that I strain for a while and strip the skin off the palm of my hands. Then I wrap the lid in a tea towel and strain some more to equal effect. At this point I'm on to using the jamb of the door as a vice to hold the lid while I twist at the container; Margret will be saying, 'Give it back here, you'll wreck the door,' and I'll be swearing and twisting and saying, 'I'll repaint that bit in a minute.'
The fear is upon me. If it's a fizzy thing, you can sometimes puncture the lid to relieve the pressure and then get it open, but you're not often that lucky. 'Give it back,' Margret repeats, reaching around me, trying to take the item from my hands. I swivel away - 'Just a minute' - and desperately twist at the lid again, now not even attempting not to squint up my face as I do so.
At last, though, Margret will manage to get the thing back. This is the darkest moment. If she tries again and it remains fastened, then I am saved. 'It's just completely stuck,' I'll say, 'It is. Stop trying now. Stop. Stop it.' However, there are times - and my stomach chills now, even as I write this - when she gets it back and, with one last satanic effort, manages to spin the lid free. A slight smile takes up home on her face.
'What?' I say.And I'll have to drag the tiny, damp shreds of my manhood away into the reclusive garage until the slight, slight smile disappears from her some thirty-six hours into the future.
'No - what?'
'I'd loosened it.'
'I didn't say anything.'
- In what I can only assume was an impromptu but gutsy attempt at the World Irony Record, the other day Margret started to lecture me on how I could become calmer. I mean, really, eh? It's like being pitched Al Qaeda's Little Book of Love. Her spontaneous proselytising was conjured from her now going to yoga one evening a week.
'It's really relaxing when I'm there,' she says.My face briefly collapses under the effort of trying to map the internal reasoning of a psychology that could incubate such a concept, but it's the logical equivalent of falling infinitely into the Mandelbrot set and I pull back, palsied and afraid. Instead, I reach for my ace.
'Yes, it is,' I reply. (You see what I actually meant there, right? Lord, but I'm arch.)
'Why don't you come to a session?'
There's a sucking, cultish gleam in her eye. The kind of, 'Join us! Join us - the spaceship awaits!' look that you see on the faces of Moonies or people who are telling you about homeopathy.
'But you really lose the tension.'
I consider mentioning that she always seems to find it again pretty quickly once she gets back - maybe she might think about getting a yoga instructor who 'loses her tension' by some method other than 'hiding it in our house', but I keep hold of this card for a while.
'I don't need to,' I say, 'I can achieve perfect relaxation by sitting here and watching a Buffy DVD.'
'That's not the same.'
'Yes it is.'
'No it isn't: when you're watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' (I promise you these are her exact words that are coming up now), 'you're straining your mind.'
'Well, whatever, the point is - this yoga is only relaxing you for the precise amount of time you're doing it. Once you get back home you're just the same. In fact, you've been moaning even more than usual for the last few weeks.'You know... I've been thinking about it for several days now, and I still can't figure out who won there.
'No I haven't.'
'Yes, you have.'
'No, no - I haven't been moaning,' she says, rolling her eyes and tutting. She reaches forward and ruffles my hair. 'I've just been moaning at you.' With that, she gets up and breezes from the room.