There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, means that their wives will be extremely vexed with them come Sunday. I don’t know what it was that gave me a hint that all wasn’t well in the Madeley household this morning. The thought that my blog is a year old tomorrow perhaps made me anxious about my career plans but, otherwise, there wasn’t anything particularly ominous in the creak of the bed springs, my healthy ablutions, nor the suds and foam on my cheeks as I washed and shaved. Conversations began and ended as naturally as they should, yet there was still something in the air that was more than the smell of Mrs. Corbett spreading muck around her roses...
‘Having a good morning?’ asked Judy as I appeared at breakfast.
‘Indeed I am,’ I said. ‘My ablutions were quality from beginning to end. Happiness, they name is Fruit & Fiber twice a day.’
‘And the toilet flushed first time?’
‘How can you tell?’
Her eyes narrowed. ‘You seem perky.’
‘You’re a remarkable woman, Ms. Finnigan,’ I said. ‘One day I’ll marry you under the eyes of the Christian God and make you a Madeley.’
Judy smiled thinly and watched me as I began to cobble together my breakfast. Despite my outward appearance, I was feeling uneasy about something and I could tell that my wife wasn’t the normal vivacious Judy who is usually up at seven on a Sunday when there’s concrete to be mixed. Naturally, I was suspicious that she was still angry about the third mistake that out caption editor, Dennis Plumb, had made on Friday when he had misidentified another of our guests.
It was when I was finally prepared to depart for my snug around ten o’clock, Rivita and coffee in my hands, that Judy spoke and the whole twisted mess began to unravel.
‘Richard,’ she began, ‘have you read yesterday’s paper?’
‘No, Judy, I haven’t,’ I sighed, knowing what was coming next. ‘I’ve been rather busy.’
‘Busy?’ She began to finger her necklace nervously and I knew I was in for trouble.
‘We had the newsagents change papers twice because you said you didn’t enjoy reading “The Independent” or “The Telegraph”. Yet I haven’t seen you pick up “The Guardian” once this week. I don’t see why we’re paying nearly twenty pounds a month on papers you’re not even reading!’
I took a step back. Two steps back if the truth be told.
‘What is it, Jude?’ I asked. ‘You’re not really angry about the paper, are you? I’ve been thinking all morning that you seem to be in a mood about something.’
Asking my wife about her mood was my second mistake, equivalent to allowing the Germans to rearm.
‘Well, no, Richard. I’m not alright. If you want me to be perfectly honest, I’m disappointed that you’ve not sacked Dennis. And didn’t I warn you about what would happen if he was still in his job on Monday? I’ve gone on and on about this, Richard, and I’ve told you until I’m blue in the face and yet you still won’t listen to me despite every...’
She went on for some time. When Judy begins to list all the things wrong with me, she can sometimes talk for forty five or even sixty seconds, but this morning it was something special. She also began to list all the faults of my friends and that took the speech well into lunch.
‘... and I’ll say this one last time, Richard: if I ever catch Stephen Fry smoking his pipe next to my washing line, I’ll drag that cape over his head and beat him until he stops moving. I found scorch marks in my...’
I tried to close my ears to most of it.
‘... and if Nige thinks that he can come and leave his owl with us while he goes off to France every couple of months...’
Like I said, it went on for some time.
Eventually, there came a point when I noticed that it had ended. I looked up from the newspaper I’d managed to read from front to back and wondered if Judy would allow me to change it for ‘The Times’ on a Sunday.
‘Finished?’ I asked.
‘You have to sack Dennis,’ spluttered Judy.
Before she could start again, I waved my hand. ‘If this is about Friday,’ I said, ‘you don’t need to bother. I know all about McGowan.’
I had to smile. Despite everything, Judy does her best to look out for me. She has a knack of berating me when all she’s trying to do is to save me from some of the harsher things that life throws my way. She had been trying to hide Dennis’ latest excess from me but I had learned about it yesterday afternoon.
‘I had Alistair on the phone,’ I explained. ‘He was gloating, as you can imagine, and he asked me if he’s allowed to quote it on his next DVD.’
‘He would,’ replied Judy. ‘Everybody wants us to endorse them but it doesn’t make it right. You’re much funnier than Alistair.’
‘You don’t need to tell me,’ I said. ‘I always said that Ronni Ancona carried those shows.’
‘Yes, well... You have one of those things for Roni Ancona.’
‘Things?’ I laughed though I knew that I shouldn’t.
‘It’s in your eyes, Richard... You begin to blink a lot whenever she comes on.’ I wanted to protest but Judy just shrugged. ‘Anyway, what matters is Alistair. He’s probably jealous because your Ali G impression is so much better than his.’
Music to my ears. ‘You’re telling me things I know already, Jude,’ I said.
‘Then sack Dennis and we can put this behind us.’
‘We can’t sack him. He’s a one armed man. We’d have an even number of limbs on the staff and that’s technically illegal under European rules.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘You’ll see,’ I said and gave Judy a wink. She smiled back and I stood up, planted a kiss of her brow, and then headed to my office where I was overcome with emotion.
The last time I felt like this was as a child when I was forced to give the family cat away. There must be somebody out there who has a use for a slightly unstable one-armed man with a Peter Manley fetish. He’s good with children and buries his mess in the garden. What more could you ask for?