In the 17 years that Matthew and I have been shackled together, as he puts it, in wedlock, we have argued over the following subjects: cooking; cleaning; childcare; tone of voice; the garden; the garden furniture; whether the tortoises (we now have two) are bothered by the bass beat of the radio; and Matthew's insistence on buying but then never consuming Tesco's coffee and walnut cake.
Even more recherché catalysts for raised voices have included: the optimum length of time for par-boiling potatoes; the most effective way to clean a candelabra (not that we have one); whether it was Cilla or Cher who recorded "Alfie" (a dispute that ended in a draw as it turns out they both did); my alleged failure to welcome Louis' three new Anole lizards with due warmth; and Matthew clearly favouring the senior tortoise, Miles, over the newcomer, Mish.
On Wednesday afternoon we spent a hour debating Matthew's odd theory that former Hear'Say band member, Myleene Klass, is being bullied by Twiggy, Erin O'Connor, Liz Jagger and the other professional models in the Marks and Spencer beachwear commercial. I said that I did not believe Twiggy would tolerate such behaviour. As is often the case, the matter was never settled.
The only thing about which Matthew and I have never had a blazing row is politics. Both of us have voted the same way in every election since we were married, and while it is true that words were exchanged when I developed a crush on Gordon Brown last summer, they were civil and tender words. Matthew, like a father with a naive child, simply suggested that I wait a few months before making up my mind and, because he has never subsequently gloated, I have admitted that he was right all along: Gordon is absolutely bloody useless.
And then suddenly and cataclysmically this proud record of political amity came to a dramatic end when I voiced my intention to vote for Brian Paddick in the London mayoral elections.
Matthew's objection to this is not in fact a political one. He may well vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate himself. No, what made Matthew bristle with contempt were what he called "my spurious motives". "What I want to know," he said, rocking back and forth on his heels by the mantelpiece, "is precisely which of Paddick's policies especially appeals to you?"
I answered that I was impressed with his enlightened record on cannabis. "That," said Matthew, "was years ago, and if its top-grade weed you're after, we are in Shepherd's Bush, for heaven's sake. What else do you like about him?"
Unable to recollect any other policies, probably because I hadn't bothered to find any out, I said that I liked his hair and his upright carriage. Then I paused to think and was about to mention his kindly smile when Matthew leapt off the sofa, smacked his forehead and cried: "It's Hugh, isn't it? It's Hugh Paddick, the actor. You think Brian Paddick is related to Hugh Paddick, don't you? And that is the only reason you are supporting him."
I denied it of course. I told him I was disgusted that he should think I was such a moronic airhead. "Do you really think I would vote for someone just because he might possibly be related to a TV personality, an actor I barely remember from Up the Chastity Belt with Frankie Howerd?"
"Oh no you don't," growled Matthew. "You don't remember him at all from Up the Chastity Belt with Frankie Howerd. You've been looking him up. You've been Googling Hugh Paddick, a name that is vaguely familiar to you because your father watched Up Pompeii, to see if he is related to Brian. You would put a man in charge of a multi-billion pound budget, make him the face of this fine city, all because you think he is related to a minor British character actor who once appeared in, in, well I don't know what he was in and neither did you until Brian decided to stand for mayor."
"The Basil Brush Show," I proffered, "He was in that, and Father, Dear Father with Patrick Cargill, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, Tell Tarby..."
I couldn't help myself. I knew as I continued listing Hugh's showbiz achievements – "The Jim Davidson Show, Round The Horne, he was even in The Killing of Sister George and School for Scoundrels" – that I was giving myself away. It was as much as I could do not to tell Matthew that Hugh Paddick was the co-inventor, along with Kenneth Williams, of the Polari language, as used in gay subculture. I was longing to show off my new knowledge; that it was Hugh and Kenneth who invented the term cottaging, that Aunt Nelly Fakes means earrings.
And then I am afraid I did betray my real feelings about Brian when, after scouring the index of Brian Paddick's autobiography, Line of Fire, I found there was not a single mention of Hugh.
"That's it," I said. "He has completely disowned his famous relative and I am now voting for Boris Johnson."
"Why," said Matthew, "because you think he might be related to Ulrika Jonsson, or Dr Johnson, or Lyndon B Johnson, or possibly Scarlett Johansson?"Reuse content