I am in bed, shaking.
“Shit,” my husband says, setting his alarm for the morning, “it’s the 22nd next week.”
I put down my book. It is about Ernest Hemingway and I’m tiring of him.“I cannot decide what is more annoying,” I say, “the Spiderman Scuttle, Hemingway or his over-adoring wives.”
“It’s our wedding anniversary next Saturday,” says my husband.
“Shit,” I say.
“How badly did we do last year?” he says.
“You didn’t do too badly. You booked me a night away in Dublin...”
“Nice one,” he says.
“...as atonement for the mini food-blender the year before.”
“Vanessa said it was brilliant for making hummous.”
“Vanessa reads recipes into the small hours as if it’s porn, and not instructions for salmon en croute,” I say.
“Our wedding anniversaries are cursed,” I say, “I vote we forget about presents this year.”
“Says the spider to the fly,” he says, shaking his head with such profound wisdom it would put King Solomon to shame.
“It might lift the curse,” I say.
“Ohhh no,” he says, all understanding-and-discernment-ancient-Jerusalem-style, “I’m not falling for that one again,” and honest to God, I think, if he was auditioning for the part of Solomon he’d get it.
“Forgetting gifts and forgetting our anniversary altogether are two entirely different things,” I say, reopening an ancient anniversary wound and anticipating a nice little spell on the higher moral ground.
“Was it last year that you got me the Alex Fergusson autobiography?” he says. “I can’t remember.”
“I think that was the year before,” I say.
“What did you get me last year then?” he says, and suddenly my memory is jogged.
“Nothing,” I sigh, my nice little spell over before it’s even begun, “I forgot.”
Friday, and I have spent the last 40 minutes in TK Maxx with ‘flu, searching for a man’s winter coat, size medium. On the downside, I’ve found that martyrdon is as ill-suited to my temperament as ever but on the upside, a coat. A bit out of my husband’s comfort zone but then so were brogues and now look at him; three pairs and counting. The coat passes all the tests: It’s like stumbling upon a secret cache of gold.
Saturday, the morning of our 28th wedding anniversary. My temperature has soared, my ears are blocked and now I can’t swallow but I’m looking forward to redeeming myself from my death-bed;
My husband unwraps his gift, and then, unnaccountably, makes a great show of examining the hem.
“Well try it on then,” I chivvy, dispatching him to the full-length mirror in my daughter’s bedroom.
Even before my husband bursts into our bedroom dancing, I hear him break into song. Hard to make out the tune but something from Oliver Twist, I’m sure.
He jigs about at the end of the bed, looking strangely hunched. Now he’s flipping up the tail of his coat and doing something very silly with his arms that I suppose suggests ‘tipping an imaginary hat.’
Might be Fagin. Could well be Fagin.
“It’s a timeless classic,” I say, “look at the lining, it’s silk.” But he just carries on with his West End tipping and flipping.
“Now for your present,” he says, stuffing the coat back into its bag.
And the curse continues.