Venetian blinds and domestic bliss

Related Topics
Respectable women invite you to "take pot luck with them on Sunday", adding that "you'll have to take us as you find us! The kids will be here and I'll have been toiling all day over a hot lap-top in the kitchen!"

Be that as it may, and according to a souvenir menu recently discovered among my mother's belongings, the five-course lunch at the Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth, in 1942 cost 5/6d a head - as long as you made do with Pt Maison, Potage Parmentier, Turkey Winglet prepared with Chablis Wine and Mushrooms, and Apple Dumpling. Caviar (7/6d per portion) and Oysters (4/6d for 1/2 doz) were extra.

That was quite a lot of money even in those days, but less than I'll have to spring when I take Debbie Mason to dinner there next week. And that's if she sticks to Potage Parmentier and Turkey Winglet. If she knocks me for the Caviar and Oysters, I'll be embarrassed.

Not that I'll have to take her there, since Andy From The Sixties and his fiance, Michelle, have, very decently, invited us to their place.

You'll gather, perhaps, not only that Michelle is back at last with Andy From The Sixties and that the two of them have moved to Bournemouth, but also that Debbie Mason has had another volte-face, deciding on a whim, and over lunch, to relocate El Independo yet again.

Let me explain. Michelle, once the ideal other woman, vain and demanding, petulant and never there - but, more recently, and having dipped, I think, into Balzac's Guide To Respectable Women ("Respectable women live on the third floor", "Respectable women marry artists"), quite the opposite, returned from Ireland last week and, to my dismay, took up where she'd left off (hair in a bun, always there, sitting on the sofa with her legs tucked under her, reading brochures for clingwrap and dab-it-off.)

I don't know if you've ever lived with a respectable woman on the third floor. It doesn't suit me at all - perhaps because I'm not an artist. I'm a naval man, and naval men - not least those, such as myself, who serve in boats, shipping in green at 90 feet, removing their own appendix with an oyster fork - are accustomed, without the help of a respectable woman, to keeping the place tiddly and Bristol fashion and to putting their own dinner on the table.

Correct me if times have changed, but in my day in boats we didn't sail with a complement of respectable women who, in mid-manoeuvre ("Fire one! Heave ho, me hearties!") did the hoovering ("Just move your feet, will you, Captain?"), passed croissants round or started a ruck with Number One ("Where were you last night? This isn't a hotel, you know.")

To a naval man - and I hope I won't give offence by saying this - women are for one thing only: a quick bit of fun on weekend leave. A naval man, trained to look after himself (on joining up you're issued with a "housewife", a little bag containing a darning needle, a thimble and a length of yarn) doesn't want a woman to be always there.

Which is why Michelle was, for me, the ideal other woman. Michelle was never there at all, or if she was, it was only to pick her petrol money up or to issue sudden, obscure demands - sometimes for croissants early in the morning.

She'd wake up and rub her eyes with her little hands and glare at me angrily and say: "Where's my croissant? I want a croissant. Now!" And, weak with love, I'd run up and down the Fulham Road in search of croissants - later warming them to order and praying that she'd not say "thank you", which she never did.

Perfect, right? Then one day, she dipped into Balzac's Guide to Respectable Women and everything changed - not least in the matter of croissants. To my horror, and early in the morning, she'd bring me a croissant! I had to put a stop to that.

"You should go back to Andy From the Sixties," I said.

"I can't," she said. "He lives in a bungalow."

"Ask him to find a place on the third floor. And he is an artist."

That was true. While doing his eight years in Maidstone, Andy From the Sixties twice won the Arthur Koestler Award.

"See you later," said Michelle, and she was gone. And then, on Tuesday, I got this card.

"Hi there! Greetings from sunny Bournemouth! Andy found a flat on the third floor. And Bournemouth's great. All the facilities - archery, golf, a skating rink.

"His nibs and I have taken up ice-dancing. Best of all, there's a really nice couple in the next flat. The day we moved in they knocked on our door and gave us a lend of their Inspector Morse videos. Plus they invited us in for Scrabble at their place. Really nice. Venetian blinds and digital dimmer switches in the lounge. She's great - a gourmet blue cook and that. Not that she isn't up for a giggle, she's not stuck up nor nothing, quite a laugh over a spritzer and the first to give you a lend of the clingwrap and depositories. You must come and see us. Ciao! Michelle."

On Wednesday, over lunch, I showed this to Debbie Mason, who got up immediately to leave the table.

"I'm going to ring David Liddiment at the BBC," she said. "We must relocate El Independo in Bournemouth."

"You shouldn't sneer at nice young couples trying to get it right."

"I'm not sneering. It's perfect. Venetian blinds. Scrabble. Inspector Morse. I want to film the couple next door. Tell Michelle we're on our way."

I rang Michelle, who said we'd be welcome on Sunday.

"You'll have to take pot-luck," she said. "His nibs will have been practising his Bolero and I'll have been slaving all day over a hot ..."

And to think that once she was the ideal other woman.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Silhouette of clubber dancing Hacienda nightclub  

A comedian has opened an alcohol-free nightclub. Is he having a laugh?

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape