I shall be celebrating an anniversary later this week with my family, on a beach in New South Wales. It is not the anniversary of a certain child’s birth in Bethlehem two millennia ago, although we will be marking that too. Three days later, Mr M and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.
We married in Hong Kong with just 22 guests – and our anniversary celebration will be even smaller. We will be having a quiet barbecue and a glass of champagne with a handful of people, including the three to whom, you could argue, the longevity of the marriage matters most – Cost Centres #1, #2 and #3.
Mr M and I have given some thought to how best to celebrate an anniversary that, at times, we both wondered if we would ever reach. I have come to believe that marriage is one of the most challenging commitments anyone will ever make, even more than parenthood. Really. In fact, sometimes I think we should tear up the current blueprint of “till death us do part” and go in for fixed-term marriage contracts of 10 years. Once a decade you could both decide whether to renew or seek another partner. Meanwhile, though, Mr M and I are running with the accepted model, and I am hugely grateful to have got this far.
I should here pay tribute to Mr M, who has put up with me for so long. It can’t be much fun being married to someone whose fleeting visits to the family home usually commence with questions such as, “Why is the light bulb in the downstairs loo not working?” or, “Have you sent back the form for #3’s French exchange?” rather than, “Darling, how lovely to see you, I have been in anguish every minute we have been apart.”
I work on my iPad in bed while he is trying to sleep, yet I moan like hell when he watches cricket on his iPad while I am trying to sleep. He uncomplainingly helps out with my parents, gets up to take me to the station in the cold and dark, collects me in the cold and dark, comes up to London when summoned for corporate husband duties but never questions me if I take someone else.
Before you all relabel him a doormat rather than the saint that he is, I should add that he keeps me firmly in my place should I try to exert any influence over matters about which I know nothing, which are, of course, many. Such lacunas range from driving a car to any choice of wine. Plus rugby.
Actually, especially rugby. The other day I was strongly warned by Mr M not to interrupt him while he was watching the rugby – I knew it was live sport happening in the UK, but how could Australia have the stamina to play New Zealand, beat them, and then play Wales straight after (and beat them too), with just a short break to change into slightly different kit? Was it some kind of endurance test designed to demonstrate Australian sporting prowess? No, Mr M hissed, one was the rugby league team, the other the rugby union.
People often ask if he minds being written about, and the answer is yes, but he puts up with it in the way that the Cost Centres do: patiently, but sometimes with exasperation. Mr M’s mood on the day of the anniversary itself will, I suspect, be governed more by what is going on in Melbourne than anything I do or say. It will be the third day of the Fourth Test, and while the Ashes have already been won back by Australia, he will still want the green and gold to triumph.
However, as well as 10-year marriage renewals, I would also like to advance the idea that we should not have back-to-back Ashes series. The Australians were in England less than six months ago, and I personally need a break from the emotional highs and lows of whether or not Australia is going to win. It is bad enough trying to work out what to give him as an anniversary gift, to show him how grateful I am to him for still being there for me, and to hope that we make it through another 25 years. But who knows where we will be for that anniversary?