Monday, 7 January 2008

Nunhead Wives

Marjorie Stewart has decided to take me under her wing. I know this for a fact because she told me so this morning when she dropped in with a starch spray. “I’ve noticed David’s collars are a bit limp” she said by way of explanation as she bustled in through the door clutching a folded piece of A4 paper. The upshot of this visit was to “instruct” me in the art of being a good wife. Now, pardon my arrogance but I was already under the impression that I was already one of those. Obviously not. Marjorie revealed that, at their Mince Pies and Mulled Wine do before Christmas, David was mightily impressed with the way that she “waited on Frank hand and foot” and that he has since admired her “ability to make a steak and kidney pudding AND a sticky toffee pudding on the same day and with little or no fuss.”

What? How? When? When are all these discussions being held? At secret meetings? Exactly how does David know that Marjorie’s puddings are the talk of The Avenue? And for exactly how long has he been longing for a Proper Wife? One that doesn’t make him do the washing up I mean. “Have a little read of this dear” Marjorie simpered, pressing the photocopy of an article entitled The Perfect Wife’s Guide into my hand. “It’s something worth sticking to, I don’t need it back, I’ve taken a photocopy for you. You’ll find all you need to know there.” And off she went, no doubt to prostrate herself at Frank’s feet.

I was on the phone to David in a flash and, although I didn’t actually accuse him of fancying Marjorie’s puds, I came damn close to it. “Slow down and talk me through it darling” said my unflappable husband. So I did. To give him his due, he didn’t actually laugh out loud but instead declared me “a perfect wife” with absolutely no hint of irony.

And so, just for you, at enormous expense, is The Good Wife’s Guide from Housekeeping monthly (13 May 1955 edition) along with Nunhead Mum of One’s Guide from 7 January 2008.

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
Spend the best part of the weekend planning the meals for the week ahead. Shop for enough ingredients to last several weeks, freezing where appropriate. Change your mind several times, right up to and including the time when your chosen dinner for the day should be in the oven but is, in fact, still frozen solid. If your husband has been drooling over the prospect of Beef Bourguignon with lemon and rosemary rice whilst he’s slaving away at The Office, imagine the nice surprise he’ll have when he’s greeted with roast chicken and a jacket potato instead.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.
Gauge the time of his arrival. Go to the bathroom and drag brush through hair. Wipe mascara from underneath right eye and sit down on sofa for a breather. Try not to react violently when husband arrives home and says “is that all you do all day, sit around?”

Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
Dutifully ask how his day has been whilst refereeing dogs feeding time. Make appropriate noises and throw in the odd laugh (it may be that you have to listen carefully in case he’s telling a story about how the MD had an angina attack by the water cooler) and then spend ten minutes or so filling him in on the minutiae of your own day until he glazes over and offers to do the washing up.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
Clear away the clutter into various cupboards/unused rooms. Use excessive force on the door that refuses to close because it has crapola circa 1992 stuffed into every crevice. Completely forget to make one last trip through the house before he arrives home and dispense soothing words (whilst trying not to sigh in irritation) when he trips over dog toy/Action Man and hurts his ankle.

Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
See above. Fail to locate dustcloth and use palm of hand, smearing dust nicely across surface.

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
Ensure the central heating system receives its annual service and turn thermostat up to high during the winter. Your husband will fall asleep in his armchair due to heat exhaustion and possible suffocation. Open window, lower heating and dispense medication for the headache he is now suffering. Grit teeth as he hits the roof when the bill arrives.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer of vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
Suggest to child that daddy might quite like to see him without a ketchup smeared face and in a T-shirt without half the garden on it. Remind child that he is a little treasure and would he please stop whining. Fail to eliminate all appliance noise because you need child’s pyjamas dried in half an hour so have dryer on “super fast quick dry” programme which sounds like Boeing 747 attempting to land in utility room.

Be happy to see him.
Throw yourself joyfully at your husband on his arrival home, tripping over child and three dogs in the process, all of whom have the same idea. Express delight that he can now take over amusing three dogs and child and retreat to eat ice cream in kitchen.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
Smile incessantly, prompting queries as to whether you’re okay or have been at the Chardonnay. Be accused, when showing sincerity in your desire to please him, of trying to get round him for “some reason”.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Try to remember that a blow by blow account of his spat with Trevor from Accounts over his monthly billing sheet is far more important than you telling him that you’ve put diesel into his petrol run car.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
If he is late home, try not to worry that it’s because you don’t wear a bow in your hair and don’t have a clean child and surfaces. Try to understand that queuing in the lunchtime rush at Pret a Manger can be very taxing.

Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
Your goal: as you have absolutely no hope in hell of ensuring your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity, do the next best thing and get Sky so he can watch cricket/football/rugby matches until his heart’s content.

Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
Don’t greet him with complaints and problems until he’s been stuck into the wine for an hour or so and then hit him with the whole lot. Remember, whilst he is in an alcohol induced haze he is at his most amenable so now is the best time to negotiate.

Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink waiting for him.
Ensuring that he’s comfortable and offering him a lie down will arouse his suspicions enough to ask you if you’ve dented the car again. Offering him a drink immediately on his arrival will have the same effect. Bask in the warm glow of wifeliness and try not to mind that he is highly suspicious of your motives.

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
Don’t be disconcerted that arranging his pillow and taking off his shoes has led him to believe you are trying to seduce him. You are obviously a sex goddess.

Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
If he wants to do something his way, let him. Even if you know that it’ll all go tits-up. If he brags about being “master of his own destiny”, smile sweetly and make your own alternative arrangements which he will adopt as his own soon enough. In the event of this happening, you have every right to point out where he went wrong for months afterwards.

A good wife always knows her place.
A good wife is what he’s got. Remind him forcibly at every available opportunity. Just don’t let him read the Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May 1955 edition and ensure that he is not in prolonged contact with any 1950’s throwbacks. It may give him ideas.


Potty Mummy said...

Who IS this Marjorie Stewart with her dangerous subversive propaganda? Doesn't she know that careless talk costs lives? Husband worked in Russia for a while and knows a number of unpleasant people; I could probably arrange for her to be dealt with - if you're so inclined...

dulwichmum said...

Indeedy, do not let him read anything about the 1950's at all! God only knows what they did back then (ahem) for contraception (OHMYGOD!!!) - this is not South America for God's sake.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I didn't live in the 1950's! I know this is all true because it was how my late fil lived and I had to live with it for 6 years. Pigs and chauvanists spring to mind. Not sure in which order, however.

Very funny blog. Really enjoyed it, in an "evil faced" sort of way!

Crystal xx

Kelly said...

I am thinking that instead of aspiring to Nigella status I should be aspiring to that of Nunhead Mum....Marj. doesn't even feature. In lieu of entry today, and because i have laughed so hard I have to go and change, am merely posting link to your splendidly accurate portrayal of perfect wife for the new millenium....

Nunhead Mum of One said...

Potty Mummy - Marjorie is my neighbour and the self styled guru of The Avenue. She's really quite frightening. Think Margo Ledbetter from the Good Life crossed with Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances and one of Beryl Cookson's ladies and you can't go far wrong.

Dulwich Mum - well quite! Oh how I would hate to have lived in the sounds a tad grim!

Crystal - I seriously thought it was a joke until I saw the look on Marjorie's face!

Kelly - am sorry to have caused you to change your clothing! Thank you for the link xx

@themill said...

I didn't think people like that still existed...
The most my husband gets when he walks in the door is 'Right, mine's a G&T'...

Gwen said...

I loved this. I bet no one really followed her advice in the 50's though. Your comments are much more realistic.

All about me

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Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.