Last week I was sitting in a car at some roadworks where a chap in a high-visibility vest was standing with a red STOP sign. He seemed to be having a bet with himself on how long he dared leave it before turning it around to read GO. The wait was interminable. Just as I began wondering if the other side of his sign also read STOP – which, to be honest, would have made for a better story, but never mind – David Soul's "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" started playing on the radio.
When this record came out in 1977, Mr Soul was a noted heartthrob. We interpreted his impassioned plea as an act of romantic heroism, a spirited attempt to win back the love of a woman by recording a ballad featuring oboes and so on. But the more I listened, the more I began to question his reasoning. "Lord knows we've come this far," he sang.
"Can't we stay the way we are?" Glossing over their evident incompatibilities, Soul's strategy was to present their relationship as some kind of longevity contest, potentially rewarded at the 40- year mark with a carriage clock or something.
"We're still worth one more try," he beseeched his belle, willing her to continue their two-person endurance test. By the time he reached the key change she probably felt like screaming, "You know what, David, let's leave it. And stop calling me baby."
David was unaware of the secret of a long relationship. So was I, until a friend of a friend stumbled across it while on a plumbing job a while back. He saw a man and his wife sitting next to each other in the same room, each in front of their individual television set and both wearing a pair of headphones. Forget all that stuff about working hard to keep a relationship going – that's the key, right there. Lack of communication is crucial. Spend as little time in the same room as possible. If your partner says "We need to talk", just reply, "It might be better if we didn't," and leave the building. Follow the relationship advice of my friend's elderly neighbour, Les, married for 55 years: "Keep your mouth shut." It may not make for a relationship that's "written in the moonlight" or "painted on the stars", but you won't half rack those years up.