Mil's Mailing List Mail #40


Where to begin...

Right, well, duty and honour dictate I should announce that the American edition of 'Love and Other Near-Death Experiences'
is out now. It was published there a month ago, in fact, but I haven't been able to mention it before as I've been too busy. (And too away skiing in Austria, yes. Shut up.) To my surprise, it appears to have become my 'absolutely adore it, or absolutely hate it' novel. If it's led to opposing, strongly-held opinions elsewhere, I expect that, in the US, it might well provoke a series of televised cage fights.

However, let's leave such conflicts to one side here, and instead focus on the soothing familiarity of arguing with my girlfriend about things other couples appear to be foolishly ignoring. For, while men and women all over the world have been sticking their relationship heads in the sand concerning this, Margret and I have been having a row about the Butter Wizard. We deal with these issues, so you don't have to.

Some of you - especially if you're hugely foreign - will be unaware that, when I'm not doing my day job of filling Borders with divisive literature, I write a column for the Guardian's Saturday magazine, Weekend. It's called Inspect A Gadget, and each week I look at some electronic thingy (or, more often, mention some electronic thingy briefly, in passing, while actually rambling about whatever happens to be on my mind at the time). The important point is that, contrary to what people usually assume, I don't get to keep any of the gadgets I 'review'. I get a sample, poke at it for a while, and then have to send it back. What's more, not infrequently, I write a column but then we can't use it because the Guardian's Tech section - which is staffed entirely by lurking, cowl-wearing Satanists - features it before my bit is set for publication, so I have to cast the item aside and write something else at the last minute, rolling my eyes and smiling good-naturedly. In this kind of way, I was sent the Butter Wizard (press release: "Butter Wizard revolutionises the butter world"). It arrived, but I almost immediately heard that it was going to be mentioned elsewhere in the Graun the following week, so I had to pull up abruptly.

Margret was in the kitchen, opening the box.
I crashed through the door. "Step away from that Butter Wizard!" I cried. "I need to return it, unbuttered."
"Awww," she whined. (The implication being, "You put a Butter Wizard in my hands, and then snatch it away again. My father was right about you.")
Feeling the sense of emasculation and worthlessness of any man who'd failed to fulfil his family's dairy product storage aspirations, I emailed the PR and told her that, sadly, the item needed to be collected. The PR - possibly aware that getting City Link to retrieve it was more hassle than replying, 'Meh,' replied, "Meh. Never mind. Keep it, Mil."
I sashayed back to Margret and announced (to the accompaniment, in my head, of Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man') that it was OK: she could Go Wizard.
"How come?" she asked.
I replied, as anyone would, "I promised to sleep with the PR. For you."
She said, as anyone would, "Really?" She was perfectly serious.
Rule Number 84 of a Successful Relationship: 'If your partner believes that you are genuinely going to go to bed with a PR you've never met to secure ownership of a Butter Wizard, then you owe it to her to reinforce that belief.'
"Yes." I nodded. Bravely.
"You swine."
"You swine," she explained.
"Tch. I wish you'd been clearer about this before I committed myself. There doesn't seem to be any way out of it now."
(Aside: Margret was reading something the other day and lifted her nose from it to say to me, "Apparently, the Germans have sex two-and-a-half times a week."
"That's the Germans for you." I said, shrugging. "The English, as you know, never have sex 'half a time'. Tch. 'Ffff - put some clingfilm over this - I'll finish it later.' You're so lucky you wound up with me."
I smiled. She looked at me, expressionless and unblinking. I continued to smile. Eventually, my lips started to dry out and crack.)
"You swine."
This continued. Evolving pretty much to the point where I could see a newspaper report of an ugly separation, detailed below a photo of Margret, me and

So, she's now buried the thing in a cupboard somewhere: locked it away, tainted, as it is, with the odour of my brazen infidelity. I get to keep one damn gadget, and it's hidden from sight - too many painful memories.

OK, just a few final things:
* Ms Emily Dubberley is writing yet another book, and, once again - like the professional journalist she is - would prefer you to write it while she just lies on the sofa watching daytime TV through a drunken mist that has been a full ten years in the making. Thus, she's asked me to pass on her request for contributions. Details are HERE.
* As I've mentioned in the diary, I'm talking about LAONDE at Willesden library on Sunday, at the invitation of Brent Council (those of you who've read LAONDE will see the unfortunateness of this). Now it's that close, I really am wondering if it was a good idea to accept the gig. I mean a character in LAONDE said those things, not me. But experience tells me that people hardly ever make the distinction between what you've said and what a character you've written has said. (Highlighted again recently, come to think of it, by a radio presenter interviewing me about LAONDE being overly concerned with what had been said about radio presenters, by a character in it. The same character, as it happens: man, she's out to make trouble for me, that one.) (Though, what she says about the Brontės is perfectly correct. A coincidence.) Anyway, I just hope that they frisk people before they're allowed in. Of all the miserable ways there are to die, there can't be many that beat being killed by a disgruntled administrator from Brent Council, in Willesden, on a Sunday. Ugh.
* Two random First Born-related things.
1) He was writing a story for school the other day. 'I need somewhere to set it,' he said.
'Right,' I replied. 'Can't you simply set it here?'
'No, no.' He shook his head insistently. 'It needs to be set somewhere funny. Like Australia.'
Comedy instincts, y'see. It's in the genes.
2) I'm going through the Tai Kwon Do catalogue to price up sparring equipment for First Born. (He and Second Born both do it. I sit at the side of the hall during their lessons, typing on my laptop - an impossibly fey figure at the edge of a thunderous sea of testosterone. I flatter myself that, by the time they leave the nest to fend for themselves, there's little my two boys won't know about shame.) It's all obscenely expensive, but the sellers can get away with it because you have no choice: it's, literally, 'Pay the asking price, or have your ears kicked off.' I add up the cost of the vital items. The total comes to 'Christ!'. Margret looks across at the list and, spotting an economy, says, 'Does he actually need a groin guard?' (First Born hears this, and spins around to stare at us. The look on his face would break your heart.)
'Er... yes,' I answer, authoritatively.
She 'Chk's, and smiles, and shakes her head at my response. 'You men and your groins,' she chides lightly. Like they were model railways or something. You know that thing where your parents used to feel some unfathomable compulsion to trick you into eating a food?
"I don't like dripping."
"Of course you do. Everyone likes dripping."
"I don't."
"You've never tried it."
"I have. I don't like it."
[Anything up to ten years later.]
"How was your dinner?"
"Ah-ha! There was dripping in that sauce! See?"
"God how I hope it's not true that men end up with women who are like their mothers."
So, Margret looks at me, faintly amused. As though it's all just a silly fad. As though she's likely to say, "You're making out it's a big deal, but, if I kicked you in the groin while your attention was elsewhere - while you were trying to find a spoon in the kitchen drawer, say, or opening a letter that might not be a credit card advertisement - I bet you wouldn't even notice." I know she's thinking that, but - obviously - I don't call her out on it: if ever a bet were lose-lose, then, my Lord, is this it. However, for the record, Margret - and all women - catastrophically fail to comprehend the peerless agony of an impact to the nads. I've heard people say that, if men had to give birth, there'd be no babies. Well, if women knew the hallucinogenic, soul-chilling, pain of even a relatively light groin strike they would spend their lives hiding alone in a padded cellar.

'Does he actually need a groin guard?' It's like gazing into the Abyss sometimes, it really is.


(To preempt any emails from the New World: dripping. Yes, it is. No one born after 1928 would go near such a thing.)

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