MAN'S WORLD

LAST WEEK we returned from holiday to find the uncancelled newspapers stacked in the hallway, the post heaped up on a side table and the au pair engaged to be married. I was, to say the least, surprised. I had assumed my wife had cancelled the papers.

That the au pair would get engaged was obvious, apparently. My wife predicted it, and she tipped me off. I'd forgotten, but I've always adhered to the rule that if you don't look surprised, you aren't surprised.

One note of congratulation, however, was conspicuously absent. The four- year-old was discovered sobbing on the stairs. It turns out that some time ago he had secured an agreement from the au pair that she would marry him, and he saw her engagement to someone else as a breach of promise. We all tried to make him feel better by telling him that marrying a four- year-old is against the law, a tactic which, with hindsight, might have been better thought through. It was his first disappointment in love, and it took him an hour to convince himself that it was her loss.

I don't really know what to say to him, except perhaps to reassure him that in 30 years' time he will have no memory of it. I'm sure I suffered equal anguish when I was his age, but all that's left of it now is the name Sonia, a faded picture in the old family album and a vague sense that somehow she should've been mine. But I don't say this to him. I say, "Let's watch Britain's Strongest Man," and he says "yeah".

Today is, coincidentally, my seventh wedding anniversary, something which will come as a big surprise to one of my regular readers, ie my wife. I checked the kitchen calendar and her diary, both of which have a blank square under 5 September, so I know she has forgotten. She always does, despite my protests that forgetting anniversaries is a man's thing.

As she reads this, she doesn't yet know whether this year I've got her something really nice, which will make her feel deeply ashamed. At the time of writing I haven't decided what I'm going to get her, or where I'm going to take her on this very special day. I'm just thinking that this is what having a newspaper column is all about.

I would like to thank my wife for our wonderful marriage which began seven years ago on this date that she can never be bothered to remember. I would also like to remind her that many shops are open on Sundays, and to pass on a rule which has always helped me: if you don't look surprised, you aren't surprised.

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