In our new house there are still improvements to be made. I have a list in my head that I will nurture until they fade into memory.
There are, of course, some domestic jobs I am happy to relinquish to my wife Maria, on the grounds that she knows how to operate a washing machine and I don't. She remains in control of the oven even though, when we had a new one installed two months ago, she complained it was taking ages to cook anything, until she realised she had miss-interpreted the dials and attempted to roast a joint on steam clean.
My pal Jimmy, on the other hand, displays an open policy of equal rights, which he explained when we met at the bar the other day and he was without his wife.
“She's at home, she had a few jobs to do. She's finished the tiling and now she's working on the roof.”
Arthur looked at him askance: “You've left her working on the roof?”
“Well, she's nearly finished. She enjoys it.”
“Arthur, “ I said. “Jimmy is a Scouser. He's having you on.”
At least, I think he was.
Mind you, it would be handy if Maria could do a bit of ladder work now and again, what with my bad back. But on the whole, I think we have the balance of shared responsibilities about right. Take duvets, for instance.
It was her decision to guide me into Honest Freddy's and point out they were selling “hotel quality duvet sets” at a bargain price. And a lovely quality they are, too.
The trouble came at home when I retired to my office. An hour later, I discovered Maria downstairs in the living room struggling to shove a floppy duvet inside a new cover. I had to step over the thing to get to the kitchen to make my coffee.
Half an hour later, she had dragged it upstairs and into the bedroom and I was unable to further ignore her grunts and curses. I wandered through to say how nice it looked. It didn't.
“I can't get the lumps out,” she said. I gave a manly sigh and took over. Cover to corner, shake and smooth. It remained lumpy. Together we beat it into submission. Combined operations sometimes work. Until we got into bed that night.
Instead of buttons to seal it, the cover had a large overlap like an envelope, which was face down at the wrong end of the bed. Our feet went straight into the envelope, which could have spelt disaster if either of us got up swiftly during the night. We slept warily and realignment took place the next morning. These chores are, after all, sent to try us if we can't ignore them.
After my shower, I found Maria inspecting the full length mirror we had bought from the Hospice shop, which was still leaning against a wall.
“You could hang it there,” she said.
“I'll do it as soon as I can find my Manchester screwdriver,” I said. “Unless you want to ask Julie to come round to help you do it.”