My wife and I go on dates, even after being together for more than twelve years. That may surprise you. More surprising is the nature of the dates we go on. After all this time, there’s not much small talk we haven’t already exhausted so romantic dinners, walks by the lapping tide and other traditional recreational activities for lovers have been more or less abandoned. Not that there’s anything unusual about that, of course. In fact, it’s pretty much a standard scenario. Unfortunately, many people slip into that situation and forget to replace it with anything. Not us!
I awoke this morning to see my beloved wife leaning over me, with a loving frown on her face and her traditional waking greeting, “What time did you get home last night?” She’s very caring like that. I couldn’t quite remember what time I got home, for some reason, but keen to join in the conversation I asked what time it was? Apparently, I’d had a couple of hours sleep. “I guess you’d like to sleep for the rest of the morning?” That would have been swell but also a little tactless because we had scheduled to spend the day together. Being asleep for half of it wouldn’t be conducive to a happy marriage. Whilst I was figuring out what kind of compromise might be acceptable, she invited me on a date! Of course, she didn’t actually use the word ‘date’. We’re not teenagers any more; these phrases can seem a little worn out after a few years. Recently, my wife bought a car so that she can drive when her arthritis is too much to cycle to work. This has meant that we’re no longer dependent on friends for lifts to certain types of shopping centres, which always seem to be out of town. She said, “Let’s go to the garden centre.” That was her asking me on a date. I could tell from the firmness of her tone. If my wife wants to go on a date to a garden centre, who am I to argue?
On the way there, I chatted away to demonstrate that I wasn’t sleeping the morning away. My wife stayed silent. Too many people lose concentration when they’re driving. On arrival, she took my arm and we went inside. This was not like that shitty garden centre up by the Racecourse in Brighton. This place had a bookshop, a biscuit counter and even its own cafe! I suddenly realised that I had turned down many suggestions that I accompany my wife to a garden centre over the years. Middle-aged men, hear my plea! Do not ignore these apparently tedious requests from the women in your life. These places are actually hugely romantic for your lover. We wandered around laughing at the various wares, lost in our own happiness. That said, I did notice my wife scanning the shelves for the items on her list, with the same steely determination as The Terminator. Certainly I was laughing. Perhaps she wasn’t. Definitely she was smiling, a bit.
At one point I saw a pathetic clay dog, designed to look up you balefully. My carefree feelings evaporated and were replaced by a dose of rage. Whether I was angry with the conniving artist who had created such sad garden furniture or the notion that some customers would buy that sort of thing, I do not know. My instinct was to smash the dog immediately. I ran over to it, picked it up and went to smash it on the ground but my wife stopped me. It seemed that she felt unexpectedly romantic at that moment. I could tell by the way she squeezed my arm. It was all getting a bit much for her. “Calm down,” she said. It seemed like an appropriate moment to kiss ~ all the other customers seemed to have disappeared ~ but in my exhausted state I mistimed my move and accidentally kissed the back of her turning head.
Then I spotted the sheds. Oh boy, this place was extraordinary. My wife agreed to a tour of shed alley. We walked around various wooden huts and marvelled at their construction, their prices and our sad, unfulfilled lives. Then I spotted that chap who job it was to flog the sheds. He had one of his own to sit in. Suddenly my life appeared to be very nirvana.
We rounded our date off with a bite to eat in the cafe. We’d been dragging one of those unmanageable trollies around with us, piling it up with various types of soil and the like. I had parked it behind our table, tucked out of the way but some fellow who obviously didn’t trust his own trolley steering abilities had the audacity to move it without asking. Naturally, I immediately he was trying to steal our unpaid for goods, so as to save himself the hassle of collecting such things himself. I was on him in a flash. “It was an easy mistake to make…,” I tried to tell my wife in the car home. It seemed that I had slipped up. I tried again with, “Did you enjoy the rest of our date?” She pretended not to know that we were on a date by saying, “I wish we hadn’t come. Why did you start shouting by those animal statues? Other people were hiding from you…” I knew she was just joking. The reality is that we had a wonderfully romantic afternoon. I wish I’d realised though that the other customers had wanted to play hide and seek. I bet I could have caught them easily.
So, gentlemen, I’ll leave you with this thought. Next time your wife asks you to visit some apparently mundane place, see this for what it is: your best chance of a date. Remember not to slip up like I did though. With kissing, timing is everything. As for the rest of my success, hey, those are my secrets.