How to survive those awkward moments with a perfectly delicious wife

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The Independent Online
Every time I have a bath, I start worrying about the kind of people who shop at Sainsbury's.

The reason is simple. There is a pile of magazines on our bathroom floor, and the one on top is a copy of Sainsbury's Magazine for June 1995, which catches my eye every time I manoeuvre myself into the bath and begin the long process of getting out again.

The first thing that catches my eye on the front cover (after the Great Summer Offer - "Save up to pounds 30 on food, drink, barbecues and beauty at Homebase and Sainsbury's) is a colour photo of marmoreal ice cream nestling in frosted grapes below a caption reading "Delia's glorious dairy desserts". Fair enough. Very Sainsbury's.

Then comes another feature heading which reads: "Perfect Packing: Look great, straight from the suitcase". This is followed by "Safe Tanning: The best fakes around", at which point my brow begins to furl. Articles on how to pack? On how to suntan safely but deceptively? Can this be aimed at the pale, crumpled people I see round me in the queues at Sainsbury's? The next heading is "Sunshine Food: Recipes for outdoor eating", which is a bit more like the Sainsbury's I know, but then comes the one that really floors me, "Breaking it Gently: How to say `I don't love you any more'".

After this, what I normally do is lie there, gently stewing, trying to visualise the kind of readers Sainsbury's Magazine is aiming at, and after several years of cogitation I have arrived at a scenario something like this ...

Scene: the barbecue area of a lovely garden, made more beautiful by things from Homebase, especially the shower curtains to stop the fat spitting. Susan is toying with some red peppers marinated in olive oil, looking at her watch and wondering if she can put them on the barbecue yet. She is clearly waiting for someone. Ah! Here he is! It is her husband, Peter.

Susan: Peter! You're late!

Peter: Yes. You see, Susan, I've been seeing someone ...

Susan: Oh, yes, your meeting in Paris. How did it go?

Peter: Paris? Meeting?

Susan: Don't you remember? You went off yesterday morning to Paris saying you'd be back for lunch today!

Peter: Did I? Look, Susan, I don't know how to say this, but ...

Susan: And you look lovely, sweetie! At last those tips about packing are beginning to pay off!

Peter: Packing?

Susan: Remember I told you how to look great straight from the suitcase? NEVER mix up your overnight things with your smart things. ALWAYS leave everything on a hanger while folded and DON'T mix up your dirty washing with your clean stuff - send the dirty stuff home every day by post!

Peter: Yes. I remember now. I expect you're right. Look, Susan, there's something I have to tell you ...

Susan: There certainly is!

Peter: There is?

Susan: That you've noticed my new suntan! Yesterday, when you went to Paris, I was as pale as one of Delia's vanilla desserts! Now I'm a delicious coffee mahogany! That's because they were offering a great pounds 30 discount off tins of wood-staining agents at Homebase!

Peter: Wood staining ...! But ...

Susan: No, I know what you're thinking, but it's quite safe! I asked at Homebase, and they say I should be able to go out in the rain in two days, and take coats of paint in five.

Peter: Look, Susan, there's something that's more important than suntanning ... Susan: You're right. So, will it be tuna with, unusually, watercress, or fillet steak marinated in mustard and anchovy oil?

Peter: I'm not sure I can really ...

Susan: And after that it's your favourite - creme brulee! And it's lovely and dark the way you like it, and this time I haven't burnt it - I've discovered a safe way of giving creme brulee an artificial bronzing!

Peter: Susan. Listen to me. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to say to you. It's about me and your best friend, Emma ...

Susan: Emma? Oh, God, I know what you're going to say!

Peter:You do?

Susan: Yes. You're going to say that you prefer creme brulee the way she does it!

Peter: No. Well, yes. That as well. But the main thing is that she and I ...

Susan: Darling?

Peter: Yes?

Susan: Just pop inside and bring a bottle of something chilled, would you? Just you and me, and a glass of Chablis! How lovely!

Peter: (dully) Ye-e-es ... Oh, God ...

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