Venetian blinds and domestic bliss

Share
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas