Dear Mrs Sallit

'That's nice, dear,' you said to your husband. He'd only found a new planet. Would it be too much to ask for a bit of enthusiasm?
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The Independent Online
Exactly what would it take to excite your interest? Your husband, an amateur astronomer, staggers into the kitchen after a hard day's slog in the shed to announce that he has discovered a new planet and you murmur "That's nice, dear," and carry on rinsing the tripe.

Your stargazing other half may claim loyally that you take a close interest in his obsession, but those three little words suggest otherwise. I get the feeling that he could have fallen through the back door with an arrow through his head gasping "Injuns, Jennifer. They've got us surrounded," and met with the same reply.

Hobbies are funny things, the funniest thing about them being that only men have them. Women don't tend to spend their leisure hours in the garden shed sorting out their priceless collection of screws, bits of wood, back numbers of Popular Mechanics and well-thumbed copies of Penthouse. There are more specialist branches of pottering: here we find the expensive, technology-led pursuits that characterise the model railway enthusiast, the keen amateur photographer (funny how you never hear about the apathetic amateur photographer) - and the home astronomer.

Agony aunts have always told us that shared interests are the secret of a happy marriage. Surely that depends on exactly what interests we're talking about. If your husband's evenings are taken up with throwing wild fancy-dress dinner parties, dancing in salsa bars, making copies of designer clothes and hot-air ballooning he might possibly persuade you to come along to branch meetings, but there are interests that no right-minded woman could possibly wish to share. (Sifting through old football programmes springs to mind.)

I blame the godparents. The Observer Book of Beer Mats is unthinkingly given to a beloved godson at an impressionable age and before they know where they are they have an expensive birds' eggs/butterfly/model aircraft habit to support. Up and down the country a lot of overgrown schoolboys are sitting in the shed with cracked mugs of Bovril re-cataloguing their matchbox labels, all because a godparent once suggested a hobby.

Girls adopt hobbies in a half-hearted fashion. They stick a few stamps in a book to show willing when they're about eight, but the stamps are usually put away with the Brownies uniform and never looked at again. Our hobby-free lives leave hours of time free for child care, housework, gardening and idle contemplation, but one result, you have to admit, is that our chances of becoming the fourth amateur this century to stumble on a new planet are seriously reduced.

The nearest you were going to get to immortality in that regard was to have this 30-mile-long chunk of rock discovered by your husband named after you. And what happened? You blew it. The asteroid in question will not be known as Jennifer but rejoices instead in the name of Sallit One.

Take my tip. Next time he wanders into the kitchen with a wild surmise and the light of discovery in his eyes, see if you can manage a "Darling, that's fantastic!"

LOUISE LEVENE

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