Reasons why Fran can now forgive the ironing board incident

It's nearly a month since Christmas and I still have my pile of books and notebooks from friends and family on a chair by the sofa. I can't bring myself to put them all away. There's no reason why I should. No one's dared to move the pile so that they can sit  sat on the chair for a while anyway. 



But these are lovely presents: novels, books of poetry, books about poetry, delicious notebooks .... what's not to like?

I haven't always received such pleasing gifts. 

I was married in April 1982. At the end of that month, I turned 20. Yes, a young bride, and one who wasn't so delighted with her birthday present from her new husband. 




'I've bought you an ironing board cover, too,' he said, looking pleased. 'It's the right size. I've checked.' 

And indeed he had. It was prettier than the plain blue one on this picture: flowery and cheerful. 

He had tried. 

Nevertheless, we had words. I was compassionate, don't worry. I was his first love and the only other woman he'd bought presents for was his mother who was a domestic goddess of the highest order and would have been disappointed with fripperies such as boxes of chocolates or posh hand cream. Can openers ... ladles and fish slices ... a three-pack of bleach ... these warmed her spring-cleaner cockles.  

Over the following years, his present-buying improved. There was one year in which his performance dipped and he bought me a lamp for my birthday. 


Why is that so bad? 

Because it wasn't that kind of lamp. It was this kind of lamp. 







At the time, our washing machine lived in the 'outhouse'. It used to be the outside toilet when the house was built in Edwardian times but had been converted into a utility space. 

'I know you don't like going out there to put the washing on in the dark,' he said, as I unwrapped my giant box of Milk Tray, Chanel perfume and new silk dressing-gown lamp.  

'Thank you, dear,' I said. 'I do indeed hate to go out in the dark as there may be an axe-murderer in the garden. Now, I'll be able to see him clearly and guide him into the house so that he can dispatch you in the light.'

Other than the Year of the Lamp, my husband has sharpened up his skills, buying sparkling wine, chocolates, my favourite Coco Chanel, flowers. As a teacher, I would call this 'rapid progress'.  

But time has passed. We are both middle-aged now - in fact, he's 65 in September - and although on birthdays we make more effort, Christmas has brought a new present-buying tradition, particularly as funds have run lower. The 'joint' present. 

The joint present is usually something we know we need for the house but which has been on the list for years because it's not top-priority. 

So, this year, he unwrapped the king-size duvet cover and matching pillowcase set and expressed surprise, as did I, even though I'd ordered, wrapped and labelled it and he'd agreed to the pattern when we looked on the John Lewis site.  

He also unwrapped the knife block. Again, we both claimed to have known nothing about it, despite having trawled Amazon looking for the one we wanted.  

 

Romance is dead but the knives are lovely and tidy  



Over the last few years, we've bought each other a vegetable chopper, a new set of pans, a vacuum cleaner and three bathmats. 

Being middle-aged can help this process along. We've often forgotten, between the wrapping and the unwrapping, what we bought. Then it really is a surprise and, even if it is only a saucepan, at our age, that little frisson of shock is all we can cope with before our hearts do strange things. 

A surprise kitchen gadget for Christmas is one thing. A surprise cardiac arrest is another. 

So, I can forgive him for the ironing board incident. As it turns out, he was ahead of the curve. 




Comments

  1. I think the low point was a couple of years ago, when he paid for toilet cistern at b&q and said Happy Birthday. How I laughed. On my birthday, the next day, it became apparent that he meant it. He now gets a list of my expectations down to the flavour of cake and type of wine. As do my two sons, who take after their father in this respect.

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    1. This really made me smile, especially when the actual birthday yielded nothing further! I love the idea of the list. I've missed a trick here. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. Utterly hilarious as always. When are you going to bring out your Collected Works? A book of blogs. I'd buy it! We were sitting up in bed yesterday morning drinking tea and doing the Guardian crossword on my phone. Our middle son came in and sighed. "What are you two old boomers doing?" he enquired. "I can't believe you're so excited about getting a word right." Honestly.

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    1. Blogs date so fast, though. But I'm pleased you think it would entertain :) As for your son, our three kids would have said exactly the same. Now they are ALL crossword-fiends and crosswords are a feature of any (normal times) family gathering or holiday. It comes to us all.

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  3. An umbrella. That was one of my least romantic presents. But it was a very pretty one.

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    1. I'd say you're doing fairly well on the present front there!

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  4. Comedy always entertains, so a book of your blog posts would sell well I reckon. Maybe not in Nora Roberts league sales, but you'd make enough to buy your own celebratory chocolates.
    My first husband was terribly bad at gift giving, always getting something at the last minute that wasn't at all appropriate. The worst gift ever, was a cheap two-dollar pen from the local two dollar store in a cheap looking box and the pen didn't even work. I didn't see any point in wasting time arguing over it though. I'd gotten used to his fiscal mismanagement by then.

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    1. I love getting pens because I'm such a stationery nerd - my family often gets me sets of purple pens or coloured gel pens. On the other hand, I do prefer them to be fully functioning! As for a book of my posts, I think I'd need to be a more famous writer before a publisher would look at that. I will carry on trying to get famous.

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  5. Thank you for making us chuckle, Fran. We can relate to the joint present thing, especially as we are not even middle aged yet, if 65 is middle aged ;) - middle 40's- and we still forget what it was that we ordered. Great to see Charlie's Mackesy's book amongst your list. We brought it for our 8th anniversary, as we love his work and sermons.

    Your blogs are always a real delight, whenever we wrestle with our growing tupperware, I'm reminded of that one especially :)

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    1. Thank you, Martin! Yes, I think 65 might be stretching it now - what is that called? It's not quite middle age. It's not old age. I think he's falling between categories. Thanks for your comments on the blogs. I'm so pleased they entertain you, as that's the aim, so it's good to hear they're hitting the mark, with you at least!

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  6. We decided many years ago we would buy a joint gift for Christmas and anniversaries, but we often don't get round to it. We think we have about15 years of presents in hand so if we suddenly see a painting or similar item that we would normally not consider because of cost, we might splash out! I was asked this year if I wanted to buy myself something as he wanted a very expensive set of music. I have mentally banked that until I find something!

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    1. You have a great system going there! I really like the idea that you keep some in hand ready for impulse purchases. I wonder what you'll buy ...

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  7. Hubby and I at one point started giving each other the same Matt Redman CD alternatively for Christmas as a joke ( literally the same one, not a new one each time!) Big pants (too big!) is probably the worst present I've had from him. He is tricky to buy for but he does love getting socks - I think his record was 11 pairs one Christmas! The best Christmas present was the one we bought ourselves together last year - an electric blanket - absolute bliss! And yes, we are at that age for electric blankets - it comes to us all!

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    1. I love the fact that the big pants were too big, though. That's ALMOST a compliment. Just, not quite ;)

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