John, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: Strong cord, masking tape, little balaclavas. Valium or gin (for everyone, not just the kids). Or maybe simply a fairly lightweight cosh.
Uncle Ony: A variety of games prepared in advance, preferably of an educational nature. Grab the chance to fill in the gaps in their state education; you can probably ensure they are top of the class if the journey is long enough.
A good friend of mine had a baby fairly recently. We met for lunch the other day and she was telling me about how she's not only lost all the weight she put on during her pregnancy but another stone on top of that. She looks great, better than I do, and I haven't had a baby! It may not be very sisterly but I wanted to throttle her.
Aunty Ag: Under the circumstances I think you'd be quite justified in throttling away (if you can bear the weight of a motherless child on your conscience). The only thing that might make you feel better is imagining what might have caused this weight loss: constant sleepless nights, constant running around making revolting grey-looking pureed vegetables, constant mopping up of horrid things, and so on. Perhaps you'd rather be a stone heavier but still have a life?
Uncle Ony: I have fulminated many a time about the way that women make their own lives a misery by constantly comparing their weight and figure with others. So she's slim and you're a bit of a tub. So what? Perhaps you have a nice personality (though not much evidence of it on the strength of your letter, I must say). So what if she also has a baby? You should take genuine pleasure in this lady's impressive weight loss achievement if you are her true friend, rather than disliking her for managing what you don't have the willpower to do yourself!
Eighteen months ago my wife left me but, now that the affair that set the process in train has fizzled out, she is talking about us "getting back together again". I have begun to have doubts about whether this would be a wise move since she asked me, "Who is Norman Foster?" Do you think my uncertainty is justified?
PS How old can your daughter be before you cease to qualify as a single parent in the Personals?
Peter, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: If not knowing who Norman Foster is disqualifies a person from having a relationship with you, then I'm afraid that you will have to cross quite a number off your list. I have just asked a dozen random people who he might be and only eight of them were right (the other four suggested jockey, writer, sitcom character and Soho pub landlord). I would even suggest that having a relationship with someone who doesn't know who Norman Foster is might not be altogether negative: you could avoid a lot of tedious conversations about modern architecture and whether it is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing etc etc. Also, basing your whole future on her knowing who Norman Foster is strikes me as a rather eggs-in-one- basket approach. Why not draw up a list of, say, 20 great-and-good types and get her to identify them: perhaps the NF ignorance is just an aberration? As for your other query: you can probably leave your daughter off your qualifications list when she has completed her education, got a steady job and a permanent relationship of her own, all of which will probably take her to somewhere in her early 30s.
Uncle Ony: If you cannot be wholly enthusiastic about rekindling your relationship with your wife (or possibly ex-wife) then don't do it at all. If you are not suffused with joy, expectation, and indeed forgiveness when you think about your future with this woman, then better not to start on any half-hearted attempt to get back together - apart from anything else it will be confusing and upsetting for your daughter if it doesn't work out for a second time. If you do decide to have another go, tread carefully - not knowing who Norman Foster is pales into insignificance beside the hard fact that this woman is a trollop who ran out on you.
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and Uncle Ony at the Independent on Sunday, Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL
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