What secrets lie in a husband's trouser pockets?

OTHER PEOPLE'S lives are so much more fascinating than one's own. Take the Hamiltons, Neil and Christine, currently appearing in that smash hit comedy at the Old Bailey that everyone is talking about. I forget what it's called - Private Lives, Putting on the Ritz - something like that.

The revelation earlier this week that every night Mrs Hamilton goes through her husband's pockets checking, she claims, for loose change, but clearly scrutinising every last scrap of paper (I was going to say bus ticket but I don't think public transport looms large in the Hamilton lifestyle), set off this train of thought.Exactly when and in what circumstances does Mrs Hamilton pick her husband's pockets is what I should like to know.

Various scenarios spring to mind. Here's one: Mr Hamilton calling from the bedroom, where, propped against pillows covered with 100 per cent Egyptian cotton pillowcases, he is flicking through the latest Great Hotels of the World guide: "What are you doing, light of my heart, fire of my loins, my love, my life? It's late, come to bed."

Mrs Hamilton, from the en suite dressing room where she is carefully laying out the contents of her husband's trousers, jackets and overcoat pockets: "I'm coming cherie, mon tresor." She has picked up a little French on her visits to Paris. "I'm just hanging up your clothes, you're such a messy boy."

Mr Hamilton, laughing indulgently: "If you're trying to steal my money, you bad girl, you're going to be disappointed."

Mrs Hamilton, examining the lining of her husband's overcoat: "Money? What money? I was just checking to see that there were no leaking pens or chewing gum or bulky brown envelopes. You know how they can spoil the shape of a suit."

What sort of husband, for heaven's sake, consents to his wife going through his pockets? And does it stop at pockets? What about his briefcase, his desk, his bank account and, most sacred of all, his sock drawer?

If ever I found my husband rifling through my handbag I wouldn't be best pleased, not because I have anything to hide, but because it's such a mess. I found a vegetable samosa in my bus pass the other day.

To be fair to Mrs Hamilton - well, someone should - maybe she isn't snooping when she's checking her husband's pockets, maybe she's just being a good, tidy wife. She is putting things in order, loose change in the piggy bank, old ticket stubs in the wastebasket, car keys in the Harrods desk tray. It's the kind of thing that Japanese wives are trained to do from childhood. When she is finished emptying his pockets, I daresay she stuffs the toes of his shoes with damp newspaper and puts toothpaste on his toothbrush, ready for the morning.

I know that Mrs Hamilton does not immediately strike one as the submissive sort, but appearances can be deceptive. Who knows, Mrs Hamilton's brand of wifely solicitude may be taken up by the chattering classes and become the norm. Husbands reluctant to allow their wives to rummage at will through their pockets will be pilloried, penalised, even prosecuted.

And if Mrs Hamilton can marshall such opinion-formers as Germaine Greer and Geri Halliwell behind her, the practice may well be broadened to include not just husbands but any man with suspiciously untidy pockets. "Of course I'm not spying, I'm just checking your loose change; putting everything in order," you protest as he tries to push your probing hands away. "Look, I don't know why you're making such a fuss. Neil Hamilton doesn't mind his wife going through his pockets every night. Oh look, here's a bill for pounds 187 from Quaglinos. Funny, I don't remember going to Quaglinos last Tuesday. And here's a little earring covered with long blonde hairs..." Oh Mrs Hamilton, I think you may have started something.