Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'My husband says he's wheat-intolerant. He's given up bread. No biggie, I thought – but I should have hit the panic button...'
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The Independent Online

Let me be clear. I have spent much of my life waiting for the following things:

1. Fat-free cheese (which still tastes like cheese and not donkey feet);

2. A hands-free phone system that doesn't make people sound like they're screaming at the end of a tunnel;

3. A small spaniel puppy that never grows up;

4. A corkscrew that I can operate;

5. A pony (this one is, um, left over from when I was six);

6. The go-ahead to write this column.

Correct. I needed permission to write the next 900 words and I didn't need to call Relate to check that this was indeed the case. Instead I called Lucy (cheaper and, rather magnificently, always on my side) and even she told me that not getting the "nod" and going ahead and sending in my copy was about as bad as it could get. "Claud, he needs to say it's OK," was all she muttered before putting the phone down. You see, I'm calling her with twice-daily updates and she's feeling the pressure. Plus, it's now been going on for almost four months.

Let's go back to yesterday, or as it will now be known, "Permission Day". My husband and I are in Starbucks and the nice, new, bouncy bloke behind the counter takes our coffee order and then chirpily asks: "Would you like a muffin or a pastry to go with that?"

Sure. Big whoop, you're thinking. What's the big deal? A simple question just needing a simple answer – no great shakes. Right?

Well, that would be true, with one exception – if you live in my house...

"No can do, I'm afraid, young man. I'm wheat-intolerant."

"Excuse me?"

"Makes me really tired."

"So just the coffees, then?"

"I haven't had wheat for four months. Fell off the wagon this week, but don't panic – I'm back on track."

"That will be £3.50, then."

He points at me. "She thinks it's funny I won't eat wheat."

"The nutmeg or the chocolate or the cinnamon is just at that milk and sweetener station, sir."

"She thinks that I can't stop talking about it."

"Next customer..."

When my husband turned to find me, he was bemused to see that I was flailing about with laughter. I'd knocked over a LONDON mug (what wanker, by the way, collects over-priced Starbucks mugs with city names on them?) and was about to trip over a toddler.

At the "sweetener station" I dried my eyes and he said: "OK then – do it. Write it and you'll see – everyone will feel sorry for me. You'll get letters..."

So here I am. Hello. My name is Claudia, and I am living with a wheat-intolerant person...

It started innocently enough. He'd gone on a health week away with some friends (see column number 80) and he came back all thin and pale (health farms do that to you – seriously) and in need of a lie-down. Before snuggling up with me and an extra-large Toblerone he'd bought for the cleaner (he said he just wanted to smell it), he mumbled something about giving up wheat for a bit.

I paid it no heed, thinking it was another "I'm giving up drinking/I'm giving up letting the bills stack up/I'm giving up Pringles/I'm giving up 24." You know – we all say these things at one time or another and some of them last a bit and some of them last a while. OK, we haven't done two tubes of Sour Cream & Onion in front of a couple of Jack Bauers in a while, but give it time. The lure of the "But is this one definitely the longest day of his life?" will grip us again, and you know what they say about popping and uh, not stopping.

Anyway – so he's skipping on bread for a while. No biggie. That's what I thought exactly 15 weeks ago. I should have hit the panic button when he said he wanted to go to Whole Foods with the kids to buy some spelt bread. But instead I just thought it would make a nice change from the zoo. When he lost the 18-month-old because of his frantic oatcake search ("I know they're here, baby. I just know they are. For God's sake, woman, help me find them"), and when he came home with four different kinds of wheat-free bread and then insisted we all "blind-taste" them, I should have known this was a different thing altogether.

Since then, he's passed on every bread basket and refuses to eat couscous ("It's a danger zone out there, hon – bloody everything's got wheat in it") and won't consider just one bite of cake.

Well, last week he had a problem, because we went to France – we were opposite a boulangerie and the smell of delicious freshly-made croissants drove him nuts every morning.

"Uh – do you think you could just, um [trying not to laugh], eat wheat this week?"

"It's not funny."

"It's just a bit of bread."

"It makes me so lethargic. Seriously. If I have even a piece of that sandwich I'll need a nap, like, straight away. It's crazy."

"I don't think we can talk about this any more."

That was last week and he did have some, uh, bread, and now he's back on track and we had the Starbucks incident and this feels great to get off my chest. Thank you for listening.

If it's OK with you, I'm going to let him read this and if he's got anything to add he'll put it here:

I am intolerant of wheat. My wife is simply intolerant.

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