Men in their forties do such peculiar things

'I have nothing against men with long hair if it's thick and glossy, but his tail is less pony than pig'

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So far,
Men in Crisis, Dr Anthony Clare's new radio series, hasn't touched on pony-tails, much to my friend Evie's disappointment, because her husband has just grown one. He'll be 44 this year. I have nothing against men with long hair if it's thick and glossy, but Matthew's is less pony than pig, especially the way he wears it, in a stringy little plait tied with an elastic band.

So far, Men in Crisis, Dr Anthony Clare's new radio series, hasn't touched on pony-tails, much to my friend Evie's disappointment, because her husband has just grown one. He'll be 44 this year. I have nothing against men with long hair if it's thick and glossy, but Matthew's is less pony than pig, especially the way he wears it, in a stringy little plait tied with an elastic band.

It has had mixed reactions at the surgery - Matthew is a GP famous for his serious bedside manner and sympathy for alternative medicine. Women patients mutter darkly about a mid-life crisis, men admire him for having the guts to do his own thing.

Evie says it isn't the pigtail per se that worries her, though she does wish he'd unplait it occasionally and give it a good scrub. It's the uncertainty. Not knowing if it represents the thin end, or if the bulk of the wedge is yet to come.

Men do peculiar things in their forties. I've told you about my first husband who abandoned home, wife, kids and job in the City to run marathons, occasionally sending us postcards from Manila or Vancouver to tell us where he'd come. At my Baking With Yeast evening-class, I met a dejected woman who said her fortysomething husband was into dangerous holidays. They'd been black- water rafting in New Zealand (like white-water rafting but in tunnels so you don't see the rocks till you hit them) and trekking in an area of Butan noted for the savagery of its bears.

"Why do you go with him, then," I protested, not as forcefully as I might because she was weeping into her brioche mixture, and too much salt, advised our instructor, could inhibit the dough. "Because if I don't, he'll take Haley, his leggy blonde secretary. And you can be damned sure they won't go bungee-jumping off the Victoria Falls. They'll go to the Costa Smeralda and lie on a beach."

I hadn't realised that I was part of the Big Boys Toys scenario until we drove up to Argyle last week in the new car. I have never taken much of an interest in cars, even when I was a driver. As long as they started, were big enough to hold lots of kids and the odd cupboard, I was happy. The only thing I do care about is the colour. Black reminds me of funerals, white suggests ambulances, red is flash, yellow sad, green unlucky, anything metallic naff, which just leaves blue.

"What colour's the new car?" I asked. "Blue," said my husband. "And I'd better warn you, it's a coupé." Great, I love having the roof down when it's hot. Coupé meant it only had two doors, said my husband. "Have you gone completely out of your mind?" I shrieked. "In case you've forgotten, we still have three children at home, and I was planning to take up a piano stool and a couple of bicycles."

"It's the same size as the last one, in fact the engine's even bigger," he said defensively. "And the seats slide forward automatically so that it's easy to get in and out."

"It's wicked, mum!" said the 10-year-old. "It's got cruise-control, and when it's in sports mode, it can accelerate from 1-80 in less than two seconds."

"For an extra £1,000," said my husband wistfully, "we could have had satellite tracking."

We cruised past Penrith and over Shap Fell at a steady 92. "Look," said my husband, wriggling his idle left foot. "My foot's completely free." To do what? Tread grapes? Morris dance? Score a penalty? Beside Loch Lomond we overtook one coach in sports mode, but the 15 ahead of it required Olympic- hurdle mode to overtake. Or an optional extra like satellite tracking.

Evie rang yesterday. How's Scotland, she asked, and then, without waiting to hear: "Matthew's bought a motorbike. He says it's more practical in traffic than the Rover. He's just gone off to buy gold and white racing leathers with knee slides and elbow armour. I think they're called spivvies." She was right about the pigtail. It was the fat end all right.

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