Here’s a simple question: one that goes right to the heart of the human condition. And married life as well…
Does a man’s will power only exist while his wife is in the same room?
In my case, the answer is simple. And obvious.
Thursday night. I’ve spent the day at work locked in a sweaty embrace with 2,500 words on Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement. But that’s what I do for a living: all stress levels are normal.
But my beloved is away. And 90 minutes later I’ve destroyed the kitchen and drunk far too much red wine.
Whose fault was it? Another obvious answer…
It was Nietzsche’s fault.
Let me plead my case…
Jane’s away so it’s just Ben and me for dinner. Fair enough, I’ll zip round to M&S. See if they’re doing ‘dine in for two for ten quid.’ That’ll take care of the inevitable “what’s for pudding?” question – and we can have a nice father/son chat over a glass of wine. I might even prise a bit of info about the new girlfriend out of him…
But here’s another immutable law of human life. Babies fill their nappies the moment you’re finally ready to set off. If there’s one piece of Lego left out you’ll stand on it in the middle of the night. And if you’ve bought ‘dine in for two’ you always drink the free bottle of wine the same night.
Even if you’re on your own.
Which I wasn’t – so no problem there.
“Glass of wine with your dinner, Ben?”
“No thanks, Dad. I’ve got a Philosophy essay to do.”
Ah! Philosophy: my specialist subject. “Anything I can help with?”
Nietzsche? What’s that? Ubermensch isn’t it? Man and Superman? I can bluff my way through this one. “Fire away, son. I did old Friedrich at university.”
“So you’ll know that he says you should be teetotal.”
“Yes, yes, of course I knew that. Just remind me why. I must have missed that lecture…”
“Because if you drink alcohol you’re not responsible for your own life.”
Well that’s an interesting philosophical point I can discuss with my son. “But surely one glass of wine – like I’m having with dinner – doesn’t mean I lose control of my own life?”
“But you won’t stop at one will you, Dad? Then you’ll start on the cheese…”
I reassure my son that I most certainly will be stopping at one glass. Work to do, chance to catch up on some background reading while the wife is away…
The discussion ranges from Nietzsche to the rise of Hitler to free will. Ben seems to be outwitting me. And my wine glass seems to have mysteriously filled itself.
“I’m going for some bread to mop this sauce up,” he says.
“Bring the cheese back will you?” a pathetic voice replies.
He comes back, has some sport with my feeble grasp of the Weimar Republic and departs to write his essay.
I wander into the kitchen. It’s chaos. How the hell has this happened?
Damn it, I watch Masterchef. “Work tidy,” Monica says.
“Don’t worry, Monica,” I say. “I always do.”
Then there’s the bottle of Shiraz. Clearly it wasn’t ‘dine in for two,’ it was ‘drink in for one.’ It’s been reduced to not-worth-saving-that-little-bit.
At that moment my phone rings. Jane: phoning from her desolate and lonely hotel. Exhausted by another day of NHS budgets. Or lack thereof…
“Everything alright at home?”
“Absolutely fine. We’ve had dinner together, I’ve helped him with his essay and I’ve just finished tidying the kitchen.”
But we’ve been married 20 years. As Mrs Thatcher would have said, the lady’s not for fooling…
I’m delighted to say that with a designer friend of mine I now have an app on the iPhone App Store. Children fighting, cat puking and your OH prostrate with man flu? Yep, the Stressed Out Mums Sticker Pack is now available for 79p. Need chocolate? Need cake? Ready for wine o’clock? Every sticker you’ll ever need is right there…