"The Independent want me to write a weekly column"
"You know, stuff, whatever I want. The world..."
"So it'll be about us."
"No, no, no. I'd never write about us, I think that's rubbish. I want to talk about big things, important things."
"So it won't just be about what you say to your friends, idle gossip about celebrities, amusing stories dug up from the papers and side-splitting comments about me then?"
"Absolutely not. Cross my heart and hope to die."
"Swear I'll never be mentioned"
"I swear. I promise. You know I'd never do that my darling. Besides, my mum says you're not interesting enough to write about anyway."
You can see where this is going right? A year ago, I was a nobody. A happy, anonymous nobody. This year? Well still a nobody, obviously. But now I have an imaginary doppelganger who appears in a newspaper once a week. A strange, second-life character who scratches himself a lot, grunts inarticulately but rather brilliantly makes Claudia Winkleman appear erudite, insightful and, most importantly, sane. Yes, I've become a device. One day I'm a husband, a father, a man trying to make his way in the world. The next I'm Ernie Wise. Or, in fact, worse than that I'm fucking Tommy Cannon. A mute straight man to a small Jewish bundle of feminine fun.
Now, I know in the big scheme of things, this isn't that important. After all, the column is funny, it means Claudia can tell people she's a writer for The Independent rather than a commentator on Kenny Logan's rumba (which makes her happy) and other than weekly messages from friends who delight in my obvious pain, Wednesday's still pass pretty quietly. But things have gone too far. There's a line, a rubicon, and it's been crossed. It was the "man flu" debacle.
Having been struck down by a ferocious strain of influenza – possibly bird related – while holding down a job, parenting my two young children and dealing with a Christian Laboutin bill the size of the national debt, I was viciously attacked. A full broadside, which turned into a special programme on Radio 5 Live and an approach from Lemsip to see if she wanted to dress up as a comedy germ on GMTV. "It's alright, baby chops, everyone knows men just make it up when they're ill. Mum says you don't look any 'iller' than usual. She says you're always a bit sweaty and pale."
"I just think it's a little unfair."
"Oh, for God's sake, stop moaning. Have you seen Kate Garraway's fleckle? Doesn't she know it's the secret to the Viennese waltz?"
"Are there any more tissues?
"Sorry sweetie, Matilda wanted to make clouds in the playroom and they were perfect."
"Oh. What about Lemsip?"
"No, they weren't offering enough. My agent's calling Beechams."
"I meant for me."
"Sorry, didn't think about that. Anyway got to go, there's a private view of the spring season at Accessorize and I think Lily Allen might be there. You'll be all right, won't you? 'Course you will. You're fine. Mwah, mwah."
As I sat alone, shivering, unable to breathe, I realised that I wasn't upset for me, it was men I felt for. Men who had somehow allowed themselves to accept the stereotype of weakness, of being unable to cope with the world, and I thought this had to stop. This had to be put right. But how? I had no voice, no platform, no way to let the world know that, in fact, we men struggle through all the trials and tribulations in life stoically and with humour intact. That even when close to death with something as nasty as acute viral nasopharyngitis (cunningly renamed the common cold by some female doctor somewhere, to make us feel small), we soldier on. And then it happened...
"Ehe, ehe, ehe..."
"Are you alright my angel?"
"Can't... ehe... speak"
"Darling, is there anything I can do?"
"Call... ehe... doctor... ehe... quickly"
My wife likes nothing more than a house-call by Dr Morris. So, having been ushered out of the room after his arrival, there was nothing to do but await the outcome. An hour later, Morris left hurriedly, stopping only to leave a large bill and steal a biscuit. I knocked quietly and listened...
"C... ehe... c... ehe... come... ehe... in" came a small whimper.
"What did Morris have to say?"
"I'm very ill."
"Definitely not just a cold, he's almost sure it's a chest infection."
"I knew you'd be like this. Mum says you're not very compassionate."
"What can I do for you darling? Is there anything you need?"
"Well, for a start you can go to the chemist. But not the one on the corner, I think it's best if you go to St John's Wood, the chemists are better there. While you're at it could you pick up some smoked salmon from Panzer's and a Harry Morgan's chicken soup? Oh, and you'd better get Jake and Matilda something, they'll be desperately upset to see mummy like this. Come on, get going."
"Anything else before I go?"
"Oh god, yes. You'd better call the Indy and tell them I can hardly stand so they're going to have to get someone else to write the column."
"No problem, babe."Reuse content