Have you ever been dropped by someone because of the newspaper you read?
I have. The newspaper in question was (and is, I still read it for preference) by no means any kind of radical, either ultra left or ultra right wing rag; no, it is a nice, sometimes slightly well-meaning, occasionally off-the-wall, middle-of-the-road broadsheet, which likes its arts, literature and well-written and thoughtful editorials, known affectionately for its dodgy proof-readers.
When we first decided to try country living, we moved to the Home Counties (for my non-UK readers: the counties surrounding London). Any new place is slightly daunting at first, it takes some time to get to know the locals, so I was very glad to come across another dog-walker, who said she’d love to team up for walks in the very pleasant countryside surrounding the village.
things that I know nobody told me - about friendship
We met three or four times for walks before I asked her to tea; we seemed to have quite a lot in common and never ran out of conversation. I was beginning to congratulate myself on my good fortune.
Then we asked both my new acquaintance and her husband to come for drinks, just the two of them. As you do, we talked about what we all do for a living, etc. He was a builder, with his own company; my involvement in an international trade secretariat with a European office didn’t go down too well, whereas Beloved is, of course, a layabout musician. Or so the husband soon appeared to think. We should have smelled a rat when Beloved explained that musicians have the right to a ten minute break in every three hours worked, both in rehearsals and, where possible, during performances and Husband said that he’d sack any of his workers who demanded a break after three hours’ work.
Fair enough, we believe in live and let-live and didn’t take him very seriously. While Wife, Beloved and I drank wine, Husband was very happy with Beloved’s bottle of whisky all to himself. Very happy.
So happy, in fact, that he became quite animated. And then it happened, he took a tour of our 17th century cottage and saw a pile of newspapers on a side table. “Oh my God, they read the **** fill-in-name-of-paper”, turning to his wife, his face by now bright red. (I am glad to say, he had a heart condition) His wife cringed, “yes, I know”, she said, obviously having seen it on previous visits and not dared to inform him of this heinous offence.
She shushed him and asked him to sit down again, which he did. The funny thing was that in spite of his horror at finding himself in the house of subversives and layabouts, it didn’t stop him from near enough finishing Beloved’s bottle of single malt before they left.
I rang her several times afterwards to make a date for a walk; she was never free.