Was it my fault? Let me tell you about life with Bernard and you can decide for yourself.
It wasn’t always like this, being me, being Doris Royston. When Bernard and I married, I had such high hopes for Mrs Royston. We were young and in love, or at least really quite fond of each other. We rubbed along together well and we like the same things. Bernard liked gardening and fishing, I enjoyed being outdoors and we both liked caravans. Our two boys came along and we were a happy little family. Bernard worked at the bank and I didn’t need to work. Life was comfortable.
When the boys grew up and left home I had too much time on my own so I volunteered at the local hospital. I think Bernard thought it befitting of a bank executive’s wife and he would tell everyone at social events. That was the first time I can recall him patting my hand. Just a bit, like he might pat the head of a good dog. Pat, pat, well done, good girl.
He started being more helpful around the house next. Well, he said it was being helpful. To me it was an annoying series of unnecessary scribbled notes advising how I could improve things I’d been doing for over 20 years. And lists, never-ending lists, of things I could do and buy and make. Sometimes I had a pat and a list together. Here’s a list, pat, pat.
As he aged, he got worse, until the time came for him to start thinking about retirement. I was all for him soldiering on for as long as they would have him, but they persuaded him that early retirement was for him. He may have driven them mad in the office too, because on his retirement card they had listed all the things he could do with his free time, instead of the more usual good natured messages.
And of course, it got much worse when he left work. When he no longer had anything to occupy his time and to make him feel useful he decided he would take more of an interest in the house, the family and the boys. By then I was desperate for my days at the hospital as a chance to escape. It was probably about then too that I started to tune him out. “Our Doris, you’re tuning me out again.” Oh the way he talks. No wonder I tune him out with that phraseology. He’s a sketch-show caricature, although aren’t those usually a gross exaggeration of real people?
I used to be happy pootling about in my little car and Bernard having that big one until he decided one car was sufficient. Whenever we went out together, he always drove, always. I’d never even driven his car until his eyes and knees gave up and he couldn’t drive any more. He wanted me to take a few lessons in a bigger car but I refused and just got into the driver’s seat and started up the engine. “I don’t think you would pass your test now Doris, not driving like that,” was his verdict when we stopped. I did suggest he might like to walk home or take the bus and I’d see him there. He got back in but began the first in a regular series of predictions about me crashing the car. Oh and the digs about me getting on a bit.
I wanted to go shopping on my own today, get a bit of peace. I don’t like ignoring him, really I don’t, but I can’t help myself sometimes. I thought he would write me a blasted list and be done, but no he had to come too. And we still managed to forget some bits, which might have been because he left the list in his trousers and didn’t tell me what he wanted until we were back at the car. He was on and on about his blessed lemon shredless and how I should just pop back in for it. We could have picked it up at the convenience store on the corner, but he would nag and go on. Then he started pat pat on my hand.
So I threw the car into reverse and pulled out. I always thought that was a useless choice of phrase, but it did sum up how I executed the manoeuvre. Unfortunate of course that a wild kid speeds up behind me at exactly the wrong moment, although if I’m very honest I didn’t look properly. I just wanted him to shut up, which was the last thing he did after I’d bumped that other car.
Shaking me, more hand pats and a suggestion I need medical help for my senility. Being right as usual, how it wouldn’t have happened if I went back for the marmalade and practically throwing me out of the car to the man I’d just crashed into. So I said “Sod off Bernard,” and for once he shut up.
Mrs Royston might have turned out differently if Mr Royston was the type of man to just pick the bloody bits out like everyone else.