Counselling: auntie ag and uncle ony

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As a birthday present, my husband sent me on a comprehensive Cordon Bleu cookery course. I loved it and learnt how to create a first-rate selection: souffle aux epinards, boeuf en croute, tarte tatin, the works, you know the kind of thing. However, he is now complaining that we still end up with beans on toast in the evenings. It turns out that he expects me to get in from work, drop my briefcase, nip into the kitchen and turn out a three-course gourmet dinner for two. I have stated, in no uncertain terms, that this is not feasible, and now he is sulking.

Annabel, London SW4

UNCLE ONY: You are confronting a win-lose situation where only one of you gets their way. To save face for both of you, find a win-win situation - a happy compromise. Perhaps you could just drop the home-made, three- course bit. I'm sure he would be happy with just two courses whipped up by you - you could always nip in and pick up a Marks & Spencer dessert on your way home. After all, he has a point: beans on toast is no adequate diet to fuel the efforts of a hard-working man - or lady either for that matter, I'm sure!

AUNTY AG: Oh, really, angel, I've never heard of such a thing. Everyone (apart from your husband and Ony, evidently) knows that this kind of cooking is strictly reserved for dinner parties and takes hours of blood, sweat and tears. Tell him that you're sending him on a comprehensive interior design course, and that you're happy to play the Michel Roux role as long as he will remodel your entire home while you're in the kitchen. That should settle his hash.


We never seem to have enough money and I can't understand where it all goes. I'm quite an organised person, but my girlfriend and I, who both earn quite decent salaries, are always struggling by the end of the month.

Stephen, Hemel Hempstead

UNCLE ONY: Having "enough" is a very abstract concept, Stephen. If you are fed and clothed and have a roof over your head, for many that would be "enough". Keep a strict note of everything you spend; often "little" luxuries can mount up. For example, if you buy two cappuccinos a day from one of these trendy coffee houses, it comes to over pounds 600 a year! I recommend that you trawl those jolly useful money-saving-tip columns found in women's magazines. (Don't buy the magazines, obviously, just flick through them in the newsagents.)

AUNTY AG: Oh, darling, no-one ever has enough money. It's part of the human condition. Just do what everyone else does and sign up for a portfolio of lovely credit cards.


I have recently given birth to a lovely new daughter. However, I am slightly puzzled by the behaviour of one of my husband's former girlfriends, who also had a baby at about the same time. She keeps sending us postcards about how she is getting on with getting her figure back in shape, with pictures of melons on them. The postcards are quite friendly, but I cannot help thinking that this is a bit strange.

Margaret, Milton Keynes

UNCLE ONY: Ladies after childbirth are on a wild hormonal rollercoaster and are known for doing all kinds of odd things. (You may even have noticed your own behaviour has changed!) Send a few friendly postcards back; new mums can be very helpful in supporting each other in the first few difficult months.

AUNTY AG: How extraordinary, angel. I cannot help but feel competition over getting one's figure back is the last thing you need at the moment, and that she is a mite too keen to remain in your husband's thoughts. However, making a song and dance about it will simply draw further attention to her. I would toss the postcards into the bin and, without making a big point of it, not strain yourself to stay in touch, darling.


Last week, I inadvertently opened my wife's credit card statement and found that she is spending between pounds 50 and pounds 100 a month on beauty treatments! I was shocked at this dreadful waste of our money, and wonder how to bring the subject up.

Malcolm, Dorking

UNCLE ONY: Be quite open about it, Malcolm. But be prepared for her to bring up similar "luxuries" of your own (golf club subscriptions, power tools, beer?).

AUNTY AG: There's a big difference between inadvertently opening someone's statement and grabbing the chance to scrutinise it in detail. If you dare to bring the subject up at all, it should be to congratulate her on her frugality, frankly.


You published a letter of mine last week about runny jam, and while I much appreciated the advice given (particularly about reviving it as plum compote), I couldn't help feeling that you responded with a levity that was somewhat inappropriate. Having identified that the jam, in fact, masked underlying problems with my mother and sister, I felt that jokes at my expense were unkind.

Saskia, Northumberland

UNCLE ONY: Oh, my dear Saskia, I do apologise if you were at all hurt by what was intended as the merest gentle joshing. But humour is a great leveller and also a balm for mental distress. After all, when we learn to laugh at ourselves (though, of course, still taking our feelings very seriously at the same time) we take the first steps towards self-knowledge!

AUNTY AG: There, there, darling. Now do brace up, my goodness me.