Slit spouse from gizzard to belly and he will read 'Made In England' like a stick of Blackpool rock. Never has there been a truer, more solid Englishman. Patriotic, loyal, you name it, he is it. As a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Viking/Anglo Saxon, he is an Englishman to his boot-strap bottoms.
In most things we are opposite and this instance follows the pattern. Whilst I too, am a loyal Englishwoman I am also a committed Francophile. I adore the country, the people and their way of life. Thus it was, that by some miracle, spouse, on retiring from the day job, was persuaded to make a short sojourn in France and we fetched up in a small village in the south-west, the Charente Maritime.
Needless to say I was in heaven. Spouse? Mmm, maybe not quite so, although he did enjoy the wonderful wines and food markets that abounded. There are many, many stories of our time in France, but that would be a digression too far in this blog However, one memory stands out in particular and was brought vividly back to mind this week.
I mentioned that spouse is Anglophile to his fingertips. An Englishman in France, socks with sandals and a proper stiff cream sun hat on. You get the picture. Well, it so happened that I had a C.D. by an Irish band called Planxty with a track on it called 'The Bonny Light Horseman', the lady in the song hold Napoleon responsible for the death of her lover.
I was playing this particular C.D. one day whilst washing up, singing along as you do. Spouse came into the kitchen grinning broadly and turned the volume up to deafening level. (Elf and Safety in Britain would have had his guts for garters.) Still grinning happily, he threw the windows and doors wide open and all of France to hear the song.
Now, as far as the French are concerned they did not lose Waterloo. Quite how they square this with Napoleon's capture and subsequent imprisonment on Elba, I don't know. Their great leader, Napoleon is still revered throughout France and Napoleonic law still rules. in a great many ways. You do not utter his name lightly. Luckily for us our nearest farmer neighbours were indoors, taking their usual post-prandial nap. Had they been out of doors and within hearing distance we might have been cassoulet Anglaise.
Having survived the French experience relatively unscathed, we returned to England and found a new home. Now, spouse is quite a keen chess player. No, I am not mid-digression again, dear reader. Bear with me and we will get there. We are keen afficianados of a good rummage through antique shops, junk shops and haunted many a brocante marche and depot vente in France and on one of our English sorties we came upon a chess set. One team was the Duke of Wellington, his Duchess and English soldiers and the opposing team was of course, Napoleon, Josephine and his French soldiers.
Spouse was ecstatic. Normally, as a true Yorkshireman, he would have gone away and rigorously examined the case for opening his wallet and laying hands on yer actual pound notes. But, for once, no such contemplation of the situation was deemed necessary. Gleefully he pounced upon the box and whipped out Her Majesty's currency before you could say 'knife'.
The chess set was borne home in triumph and given pride of place in the sitting room. Not just to be looked at I may add. No, to be used and then some. I am not a chess player. I'm far too scatty and whenever spouse has tried to teach me these have not turned out to be the happiest of occasion - it was better to desist than divorce. However, when spouse passes by his precious chess set, he always makes a move, for one side or another. But an interesting phenomenon occurs in our house - Napoleon never wins. Waterloo is safe in spouse's hands.
Well it was. You may recall, dear reader, that we recently moved house. The chess set was carefully packed away in its box and last week, tenderly unpacked again, once more given pride of place in the sitting room. Spouse happened to be out and about the next day when I noticed a small chip out of the chessboard, revealing its white underbelly. Out came the brown boot polish, my usually fail-safe remedy for covering scratches, but this time it proved unsuccessful. So I had the bright idea of turning the board around so that the chip faced the wall and would not be seen. Think the thought, do the deed. I slowly began to turn the board around, but drat his eyes, didn't the Duke of Wellington fall over and drop on to the floor along with one of his soldiers.
Believe me, there was more than a sharp intake of breath when I contemplated the damage. I had beheaded the Duke of Wellington, something even the great Napoleon had not managed to do. How does the story end? Well I am still here to tell the tale. Spouse has not beheaded me.
On his return home he was greeted with the sorry tale of the Duke and his maimed soldier. To his eternal credit he was forgiving and kind, realising I was motivated by the best of intentions and he did not repay me in kind - I have kept my head. Thankfully the Duke is now repaired and restored to his station and his soldier has also had his foot repaired and he too stands smartly to attention. Let battle commence - and the Duke win - of course.
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