Rebecca Tyrrel: Days like those

Katie Price may baulk at a cashmere blanket and cardie, but I don't see them as ageist
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The Independent Online

The 4, representing the first half of the 40s is bony and angular and the 5, representing the approaching 50s, is portly with a paunch - it's so obvious what's going on with 45. "If that is what you want," said Matthew, plucking his darts from the board.

"The Government's on the verge of turning this country into a police state, my heart flutter is more pronounced than ever [this isn't true but he heard the phrase "atrial mixoma" on Casualty recently], France is going up in flames and the doctor's secretary thinks there won't be any Tamiflu available until the spring of 2117. Your solipsistic preoccupation with a random number puts everything into perspective."

Forty-five, I told him, is not a random number, it is my age as of this birthday. Also, he was being fantastically hypocritical. He has such a morbid fear of the number eight he won't fill the car up at pump number eight, or park on the eighth floor of a multistorey. "Not the same," said Matthew, "That's an obsessive compulsive disorder." I told him I didn't care if it was the centrepiece of a new book of case studies by Oliver Sachs and that all I was asking was that he didn't dwell on the number 45.

"First thing in the morning," he said, finding the treble 15 with a dart, "I will cancel the 45ft-high "45" that I have arranged to have projected on to the Houses of Parliament and we will never speak of it again."

Surprise, surprise

Whatever I was expecting from my husband in the way of torment (a leather Steradent dispenser from Mulberry, perhaps, or a framed receipt for a Churchill stairlift), the presents so far have been perfectly harmless. Katie Price might baulk if Peter Andre gave her a cashmere blanket and a cardigan but I do not see these items as ageist. In fact, so far I am really enjoying my birthday, although I am aware that Matthew and Louis have been in Matthew's office/shed at the bottom of the garden for the past hour and it is only 7.45am - or, as I prefer to phrase it, a quarter to eight.

They say they are planning a "lovely surprise," but I know it could go either way. I told them I was very excited but that the presentation of this surprise would have to wait because Louis has yet to finish his homework. By eight o'clock, while Matthew has remained in the shed (this is prime time for internet poker - late at night on the West Coast so all the Americans are stoned), Louis has returned to the house and is doing his maths.

I am not good at maths. I may be able to calculate that it is now less than five years until I am 50, but I am no Carol Vorderman. So it is odd that Louis, who is very good at it, is asking me if I can help him out.

It is also odd that all his sums have been written out on the back of a statement from the Tote.

"Are nine fives 54?" he asks.

"Erm, no. I don't think so. Hang on, nine fives are forty..."

I then look at the rest of what is written on the back of that Tote statement: 15 x 3...27 + 18...77 - 32...90 divided by 2. Louis is doubled up with mirth. Normally I'd need 18 months to work out how many times 27 goes into 1215. But not today.

A vintage day

Matthew is shouting up the stairs. There is someone on the phone for me with a birthday greeting. By the time I get downstairs Matthew has disappeared. The back door is open so I assume he has gone to his office/shed. I pick up the phone. "Hello," says a man with a broad South African accent, "This is Brett here from Majestic Wine Warehouse. You're the lady with the enquiry about the fortified wines, yah?" It was the way he over-emphasised the word "fortified", the way he was trying too hard to make it sound like "forteeeefive" that gave Matthew away. I decided to ignore it.

It was puerile. I was on my way back upstairs when the phone went again and then again and then again.

Each time the accent became more stupid. First there was the Scotsman, who said he his name was Fife and he worked for Trust House Forte. He said they called him Forte Fife. Then there was Grant Mitchell from EastEnders announcing that he had asked Matthew for a fight but he'd refused. "I really fought 'ed fight," he said. Then there was a civil servant from the Scottish Office asking if I had ever been to the Firth of Forth, or was it the Forth of Fife? He really couldn't remember.

The old ones are the best

Matthew, who is bending over a box containing his old record collection, says he thinks a little mindless puerility is what gives a marriage its spark and savour. When I ask him what he is doing he says he is looking for some old 45s.

Bridget Jones is on holiday and returns next week