Cooper Brown: He's Out There

'He suddenly turned from a country lord into a crazed dictator. I swear he was foaming at the mouth'
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The Independent Online

Victoria's parents have really fucked me over big time. They've given her one of the cottages on their estate for us to use whenever we want. I now have a "place in the country", the English equivalent of "something in the Hamptons". I should be thrilled but I'm starting to suspect that it's a cunning plan on their part to make sure that they keep an eye on the upbringing of their future grandchild.

Fresh back from Switzerland, we drove down there to give them some belated Christmas gifts. It was kind of one-sided as I handed over a bottle of so-so brandy to the Mom and a Cartier money clip that I happened to have a pair of to Pops. They thanked me in that slightly sarcastic English way and then walked us over to the cottage to announce their intentions. Victoria went nuts and has decided that we're going to spend every weekend down here from now until eternity. She also hit me with the fact that she's going to leave work at the end of this month and live in the cottage until the kid has popped. Mom beamed with delight and they started talking about decorations and shit, and I quickly realised that any immediate thoughts of hot tubs, plasma screens and Ben coming down were not on the agenda. It's going to be a full on, flowery, "comfy" (I hate that English term), 18th-century kind of place and I have no control over this whatsoever. In fact, I have to keep continually thanking these motherfuckers for their "generosity" when I know it's all about them taking over my life.

Things came to a head when I was invited for a pre-dinner drink with Pops in his study. He pours me a big Scotch and we sit down in these big, deep green chairs. He sits there like the lord of the manor and I'm sure that he's fixed my chair as I totally sink down into mine and feel really uncomfortable and lower than him. Everyone thinks that they are great, "proper" people, but they are conniving bastards and nothing is left to chance. As I try to raise my head above the level of the armrest, Pop starts questioning me about our plans for the kid, education-wise?

Before I can tell him that it hasn't even been born yet he announces that he's "put it down" for his old schools and the places are already assured as he donated part of a library and a hockey pitch to them respectively about five years ago. He also tells me about this trust that he's set up that will pay for the whole school thing, as long as I "do the right thing". So basically, he'll fork up stacks of cash as long as I become his tenant and send my kid to some Victorian institution where they can be gang-raped for 10 years. It's frickin' insane: straight off some weird TV drama series. I told him to go fuck himself and the whole façade came tumbling down. He suddenly turned from this serene, old country lord into some crazed dictator figure. I swear he was actually foaming at the mouth. He starts shouting: "Who the bloody hell do you think you are? You jumped-up little prick, I could have you bumped off... just like that."

There was a long silence as I took in what he'd just said and I could see from his eyes that he realised that he'd gone too far and let down the unflappable guard he's so keen on. Bumped off? He wasn't kidding - that's what's really weird about it. This guy clearly actually knows ways of getting me executed? This was totally out of my league and, for the first time since I'd arrived in the UK, I have to admit I was slightly nervous. I'm mainly writing this down just in case something happens to me. I'm not kidding!! I'm using my column as life insurance. And you think you've got problems with your in-laws?

So, in true English fashion we both leave his study and pretend that nothing has happened. We all sit down for this big formal meal and I'm sat next to Victoria's dumb sister, Harriet (the wannabe explorer who tried to drive around Africa in a Land Rover and ended up banging some diving instructor in Zanzibar). It turns out that the African sun has seriously broiled her little brain. The diving instructor broke her heart after two months when she caught him in bed with the boat boy. She smashed his place up and he had her arrested, so she spent three nights in a Stone Town jail before "daddy" got her out and back home.

Obviously, it probably wasn't that pleasant an experience but it was hardly life altering. Harriet, however, had decided to write a book about the "experience". Her dad is right behind her and called some friend in a publishing house who signed her up. I imagine the guy now probably has his own little cottage on the estate by way of a thank you, as she is seriously dumb. It goes without saying that I expressed this thought. It didn't go down well. She started weeping uncontrollably and shouting at Victoria that all men are bastards and that I look like a homosexual and that I'm probably sleeping with guardsmen?!!?? in St James' Park. I got a bit lost at this point but it brought the whole sorry meal to an early close, thank Christ.

As we drove back towards the relative normality of West London, ensconced in the soothing womb of my beloved Quattroporte, I told Victoria that there was no way we could accept her parents' offer of the cottage. She hit me so hard that I very nearly crashed into a bridge. In the space of a day I have been verbally or physically assaulted by three members of her family and I suspect that the only reason Mom didn't join in was that she tucked into my brandy present early on. I'm SO looking forward to every weekend of the rest of my possibly short life. Cooper Out.;