Shopping with my husband – the truth

He should just try and keep up - I haven’t got all day

A number of women have told me they think their husbands would get on well with mine as they seem remarkably similar.

Now either my husband is a polygamist, in which case that explains why he sometimes dozes off on a Saturday afternoon – it can’t be easy mowing all those lawns – or men of a certain age tend to share certain characteristics.

In no particular order these may include:

• Reading aloud from the newspaper;

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• Shouting down politicians on the television;

• Telling their wife ‘of course your bottom doesn’t look big in those leggings’ without actually looking at her;

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• Disappearing back into the house just as you’re about to go out in order to make a last check on the doors and windows;

• Becoming more like his father – despite vowing he will never become like his fathers’;

• Denying he does any of the above.

It cuts both ways, of course. Most of the women who say their husbands would get on well with my husband are uncannily like me. It cannot be a coincidence that we always meet in Marks and Spencer; that we all tug at our scarves because we’ve suddenly come over hot; that we all insist on going down the stairs without holding on to the handrail because we don’t want to look old or give anyone the idea that our knees are playing up a bit.

Nor can it be chance that each of us is accompanied by our husband who is unaccountably missing just at the moment we want to introduce him.

We part and each of us seeks out our errant spouse.

“Where were you?” I demand.

“What do you mean? It was you that wandered off. I haven’t moved.” It is a moot point. I don’t exactly wander off, I move briskly on to locate the next purchase. And, to be fair, he doesn’t precisely go missing either because he is simply where I left him, still reading food ingredients or clothing labels.

He is usually to be found in a somewhere in a small scattering of other gentlemen, each of whom has temporarily mislaid his wife but is standing quietly, patiently; confident that she will shortly turn up to claim him.

I need my husband to see my industry. It is important he knows that while he was motionless by the pre-packed salads or stationed with the other husbands just outside the notional perimeter fence of the lingerie department, all of them trying not to look at extra-large brassieres in case anyone might think they are sizing them up for personal use, I have been busy.

I need to see the wonder in his eyes: “How did she manage to do all that shopping in the few (make that 20) minutes I have been waiting here?”

In exchange for this harmless bit of role-playing, he will gain special privileges such as a few uninterrupted minutes reading aloud from the letters’ pages... yes, right, that’s enough.

“Stop now – you’re getting just like your father.”

“No, I’m not.”

Use of English – readers’ postbag no.1

Oh, you are sticklers for grammar and spelling – here are excerpts from my postbag (more next week):

Use of English 1: Tom, who lives on the Suffolk coast, is almost certainly my youngest reader (unless you know better). He writes, most elegantly: “After reading your entry regarding the incorrect usage of grammar… I felt it necessary to write to you from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old boy.

“Like yourself, I am a grammar enthusiast and continually find myself hurling literary abuse at billboards, advertisements and various other publications. In response to the anonymous e-mailer’s question of ‘What do they teach children in English lessons at school these days?’ I shall tell you that the answer is simple: not all that much. I understand how important it is to use punctuation correctly, and I own several books to remind me in case I forget, however this is predominantly due to parental influence. I cannot remember ever being taught the basic rules of grammar in a classroom. It is just something we are expected to pick up, I suppose.

“As I sit here writing, I notice three errors on a sign in our school library; all of which involve the misuse of punctuation.”

Use of English 2: My pal Ron Longland writes: “One of my pet hates is the use of the verb “get” to indicate almost anything else. Some years ago a reporter in the field, when asked by the studio anchor man, what the person concerned in the news item should do next, this reporter said “Well, first he’s got to have to go and get .....”. That phraseology is still used, twenty years later. Another pet dislike is the phrase ‘set to…’ as in ‘set to take place’. Why not use ‘will’ or ‘planned to’. The verb ‘to go’ is also used commonly in place of ‘to speak’, ‘to say’, ‘to reply’ and so forth.

I opine that (better than ‘feel’ or ‘think’) the use of the numbers 2 and 4, instead of ‘to’ and ‘for’ is simply stupid.

Ron goes on to say that articles in newspapers often have “words missing or misspelt or extra words which are irrelevant…”

I find that hard to believe, Ron (see below).

Use of English 3: It was always going to happen and happen soon. And it did. After I wrote a piece about British Summer Time and whether we really need to change the clocks twice a year, John Parson noticed I used the word biennial:

“Biennial, dear Lynne, means once every two years according to my English teacher in the 1940’s and I suspect you meant to say this twice annual irritation.

“I shall be really chuffed if I have caught out the grammatical queen of East Anglia knowing what a stickler for prose correctness she is!”

Well and truly and deservedly hoist with my own petard, John.

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