Go Tell Lord Grenville

Wordpretzels, I am writing this from the safety of Randall Towers, after the most wonderful weekend away with Lady Barton St Mary in a place called London.

Our primary objective for visiting this place was to listen to Al Stewart play two of his albums, namely Past Present Future and The Year of the Cat in front of a live audience at The Royal Albert Hall. Very good it was too. This particular live audience, by its very demographic, had a combined age that would easily cover the entire Pleistocene (P) epoch. There were a huge number of very knowledgeable heads from the late 60s and early 70s, holding earnest conversations about Al Stewart and other great figures and bands of the past. Some of these fans dressed as if they’d stepped out of a T Rex concert in 1972 straight into 2015 wearing the same clothes. In fact, a couple of them appeared to have not changed their clothing for 40 years. I didn’t want to get too close, just in case.

So, we didn’t know the first album that well (I’d mistakenly been listening to Time Passages), but the musicianship was so brilliant, it didn’t matter. The drummer from Cockney Rebel and the bass player from Matthews’ Southern Comfort (Woodstock) along with  musical director Peter Wood, who was an accomplished pianist when Year of the Cat was recorded (he co-wrote it), but volunteered to play the Spanish guitar solo during recording and thus became known as an accomplished guitar player.

Al Stewart appeared to be a tiny man (we were in the back rows of the upper circle on dizzyingly steep seats) in his late 60s who seemed a little left behind by modern life. Confusingly, he introduced the band explaining that they’d been rehearsing whilst he was on tour. But, wasn’t he on tour now? What? Who? Eh? He did tell one joke involving Lord and Lady McMillan having General DeGaulle and his wife for a dinner party, so not one for the teenagers, really.

Year of the Cat was a real joy, all the songs we listened to on Lady BSM’s Amstrad cassette player in our little Brighton flat many years ago; I remembered lying on the bed, cuddled up staring at the ceiling in the half light, listening to the opening track:

‘Go tell Lord Grenville, that the tide is on the turn, It’s time to haul the anchor up and leave the land astern’

Just for good measure, he played Time Passages as an encore, so all my research wasn’t for nothing. The audience passed up the opportunity for a standing ovation, since most of them probably find it hard to stand at all these days, but the nodding heads of approval, the light glistening off the bald pates and grey white hair, showed how much they appreciated this ageing genius.

Out in the cool air of a May evening, as the mobility scooters weaved in between the departing crowd, we hailed a taxi back to Chelsea Bridge, Al Stewart’s quintessentially English voice in our heads:

‘On a morning from a Bogart movie, In a country where they turn back time,

You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime…’

 

 

 

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Borehamwood. Not Hollywood.

Hello Wordpretzels. I believe that a little while ago I promised to tell you all about Studio 70, the illustrious cinema in my home town of Borehamwood. For those of you that don’t know Borehamwood, it’s a town just north of London.

Borehamwood is in fact a very famous place, being home to Elstree film studios. Let me point out that Borehamwood is next to a posh place called Elstree, so naturally ‘The Wood’ missed out on the billing.

Borehamwood has been described as the ‘British Hollywood’, but having spent the first 18 years of my life there, it didn’t really feel like it. It was quite a strange place to grow up in anyway; remember this was the 60s and 70s when casual violence was de rigeur. But living in a film town had its advantages.

There was a man called Roger Harris who lived across the road from us. Roger was a wheelchair user and worked as a graphic designer at Elstree. One day, Mrs Harris (these were the days when teenagers didn’t use an adult’s first name) asked if I’d like to come and see Roger’s drawings. I must have been about 15 at the time.

Roger had a massive drawing board with pictures of amazing space ships on them – a huge one that looked a bit like the headquarters of ‘Spectrum’ – the big ship in the sky on Captain Scarlet. Another one was cylindrical with two stubby wings which I doubted would ever fly if it were real. Roger pushed his heavy rimmed spectacles up onto the bridge of his nose and grinned.

“Do you like them?” he asked.

“They’re amazing,” I replied honestly.

“Thank you. They’re going to be made into models and used in a film,” he explained, “this one,” he said, pointing to the cylindrical stubby winged spaceship, “is called a tie fighter.”

Little did I know at the time, but I was looking at the prototype craft designs for the Star Wars franchise.

But then, being from a film town, it just seemed normal. I’d seen chimpanzees walking along Shenley Road eating chips when they made Planet of the Apes. My mother bumped into Roger Moore in our street one day. Our neighbour was his chauffeur.

East Enders, the soap opera, is made at Elstree. For those of you that know them, I came face to face with the Mitchell brothers in the drinks aisle at Tesco during a visit home. The kids from Grange Hill walked the same route home as I did from school. The gymnasium scene from Scum was filmed at my school and we got to meet Ray Winstone, who lived up the road in Enfield.

Better still, when word got around that they were filming one of the soft porn ‘Confessions’ films, schoolboys from all over the estate would turn up to watch a scene being filmed on location, invariably involving scantily clad young women having to have their clothes ripped off time after time in numerous takes.

“Get rid of those bloody schoolboys!” was the regulation shout from the director.

When I was 18, my dad took me to The Red Lion pub opposite the studios (it’s a McDonald’s now) saying that they had just finished filming the TV series ‘The Winds of War’. Almost on cue, Robert Mitchum entered and the bar fell silent. Mitchum looked around the room.

“Thank fuck that’s over,” he growled, “now, barman, get drinks for all these people…”

My dad returned to The Red Lion when Spielberg completed his latest film, but he was too tight to buy us drinks all night, my dad explained.

So, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous wasn’t unusual in Borehamwood. In fact, we had a few home grown ones of our own: Damon Hill, Vanessa Feltz and … oh dear … Simon Cowell.

The legendary theatre.

The legendary theatre.

You would think that this meant we would have a plush cinema to watch all these films in. What we had was Studio 70, a detached building decorated with enormous concrete tiles which I think intended it to look futuristic, except a few of them had fallen off. It was where my sister Janet took me to the pictures for the first time: Mary Poppins.

School holidays usually meant a showing of ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’ with ‘Monte Carlo or Bust’ on a double bill. These films would be on a loop, which meant you could enter the auditorium half way through, see the end of the film and then watch the bit you didn’t see at the beginning. You could also watch the films more than once. My cousin John and I would spend most of our day watching the films at least twice. I suppose that’s how kids of my age made up for video not being invented yet.

Studio 70 also sold boxes of Maltesers and Fruit Gums, the staple diet of film watching children in the 60s and 70s. My naughtier mates (not me, of course) realised that if one of you paid to get in, they could open the fire door at the side to let the rest of us I mean them in. This had to be quick, because when the door opened, natural light flooded in and alerted the ushers, who would come running from all directions to thwart the invasion. Borehamwood kids, at the time the product of cunning East Enders who had moved onto the estates after the war, had an innate skill in dispersing quickly and quietly into the stalls, mingling with other legitimate film goers.

It was the cinema where I saw ‘Jaws’ and realised the absolute joy of watching a film whilst sitting next to nervous girls from school. I had Melanie North one side of me and Elaine Perkins the other: both 16 year old sirens with flicked back hair solidified into place with lacquer and a heady aroma of Charlie perfume and JPS Specials, which they puffed on throughout the drama.  Occasionally, they would lean over and place their cigarette in my mouth. The taste of lipstick and ashtrays combined with their attention was surprisingly arousing. Even better, during the scary scenes, they would cuddle up to me for comfort. When the head falls out of the hole in the boat, I had two of the most desirable girls in the 5th form sitting in my lap. It was at this point I decided I needed to go more often to the pictures with this group of school friends, especially to see anything that made girls jump.

I think the last film I ever saw there was ‘Flash Gordon’ with my girlfriend Jane, who refused to wait for my niece to arrive with her dad and hence denying me the pleasure of her company during the screening. Not long after this, Studio 70 closed down.

For a while, rather ironically, Borehamwood didn’t have a cinema. It made lots of films but couldn’t show them.

These days, of course, we are spoilt rotten when it comes to being able to see a film, what with multiplex screens and eye wateringly expensive sweets.

The thing is, can you still get in through the fire doors without being arrested?

 

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The Language of Love

“Do you think it would be a good idea to change the bed linen?” Lady Barton St Mary asked me this morning.

“No,” I nearly answered,” I think they could see out another week. Just shake them out.”

Of course, in a relationship, as most of you know, what your partner says and what it actually means can be two completely different things. If you are not aware of this, you are either single or very soon to be so.

Let me give you a few examples of how this works in my marriage to a highly intelligent, aristocratic business woman. I’ll take you through a few phases that she uses and try my best to define what they mean. Of course, being a man, my interpretations can be inaccurate. After all, a wise person once stated:

“If a married man says something alone in the middle of the forest, is he still wrong?”

Here we go, then:

Maybe

A particularly interesting one. In the first full blush of our romance, when the love of your life wants to please you as much as possible, she would say ‘maybe’ when she really meant ‘perhaps you should rethink that one’. For example:

“Would you like to watch the football with me?” or

“Would you come back to my place and let me use my chocolate body paint on you? “

‘Maybe’ in a long term marriage means ‘I have to consider all the options and probably revise your intentions so that they can suit my personal preference.’

It’s up to you.

It’s never up to you. It’s up to her, but she’s giving you the option of making the right decision.

Can I just say something?

She means, ‘You’re making a complete balls up of something, but I’m being diplomatic.’

I’m tired of making decisions. I want you to make a decision.

She’s saying, ‘I’m a bit undecided but if I hear what sort of terrible decision you would make it would help me.’

I don’t mind.

I do mind. It’s just that you have to find out what I don’t mind.

Somebody’s left a coffee mug in the living room.

Go and get the cup and tidy up the living room.

I’ve been thinking.

The most dreaded statement ever to be heard in a relationship, indicating imminent hard work and drudgery. For example:

“I’ve been thinking. How long is it since we decorated the bedroom?”

Notice the clever use of ‘we’ in this sentence.

Impending hardship may be exacerbated by ‘You’re not going to like this…

No.

Easy. It means no. Not ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Coffee Shop

They sat together at a small table with large cups of coffee on the table in front of them. He wasn’t a big coffee drinker; the cups were big, like soup bowls. He opened a sachet of sugar and emptied it into his drink.

She drank black coffee, no sugar. She’d often tell him that sugar wasn’t good for you, but always in that kindly, gentle manner she had. He focused on stirring before stealing a glance across the table at her. The dark curls of her hair,  black and shining in the shaded lighting of the coffee shop, cascaded over her shoulders, a wisp of it brushing over her forehead. She was also occupied, deep in thought, and he took the opportunity to study her. She had a fine, pale complexion, a few freckles scattered over her nose and cheeks. The first time he’d seen her in that small room, he’d been captivated. He felt as if all the air in his body had momentarily left him and he was falling, falling, exhilarated and dizzy. She was gorgeous.

Of course, almost immediately, he realised that she would be unattainable; he felt as if he was looking in through a glass window, realising that something of such great beauty could never be possessed. Over the past few months, as he got to know her better, he imagined her one day meeting somebody a few years older than she was, no doubt successful and wealthy, who would naturally be able to care for somebody as attractive and loving as she undoubtedly was, it became clear that her allure was more than skin deep.

He made the decision that, however much he was attracted to her he wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of several other young men, some of them his friends, who tried their best to woo her. A couple of them managed to invite her for dinner or to the cinema, but however much they tried to impress her, they inevitably failed in their quest to make her their lover.

So he kept his deepest feelings to himself and she liked to be in his company and that of his flat mates. She’d often come and stay at the musty, first floor student digs he shared with three others, two girls and another boy. She laughed at their jokes, joined in with their silly games and became part of their group.

Of course, this had meant being nonchalant enough to invite her over in the first place, but she’d happily accepted. The others in the flat liked her immediately and began to ask her back as well.

He would spend hours in the flat talking to her, sharing stories and jokes and thoughts about the world. When it came to bed time, he would say a cheery goodnight before lying awake, thinking of her in the room next door. In the morning, he would bring her a cup of coffee in bed and try his best not to stare as she sat up in bed, the duvet tucked around her, her smooth, pale shoulders on show, betraying her nakedness beneath the covers, making his heart beat a little faster.

He found himself thinking more and more about her. Every evening, he would make his way to the student bar on the off chance she would drop in. Incredibly, just as his hopes started to fade, she would appear through the door, give him a cheery wave and come and sit by him.

Now she’d introduced him to the coffee house. It was a bit of a treat, where they would order coffees and a plate of chips to share. She told him of her trip to Amsterdam, where she’d discovered the habit of eating chips with mayonnaise. However, her own particular preference was to sprinkle the chips liberally with Worcestershire Sauce.

It was Mike, the coffee shop proprietor, who brought him back from his reverie by placing a plate of these shared chips between them on the table. She gave Mike one of her wide smiles and brushed the wisp of ebony hair away from her deep blue eyes. Many people told her that her eyes were her best feature. Her gaze could be all consuming, mesmeric, hypnotising. He sighed inwardly as she looked at him and gave him a smile too.

She wore very little make up, she didn’t need to. A couple of times, he’d seen her about to go out on a date wearing some, asking him: Do I look alright? This made it one of the most difficult times for keeping his emotions in check. The very sight of her and the fact she’d made herself up for somebody else made it feel like he was a glass vessel about to shatter into a thousand pieces, but he did  manage a Yes. You look fine.

She took hold of the Worcestershire Sauce bottle and shook a liberal amount of the spicy liquid over the steaming chips.

She held one between her fingers before a small frown passed across her forehead.

“What are you doing this Saturday?” she asked.

He thought for a moment. He liked to spend Saturdays watching sport on the TV and taking a trip to the local pub. This coming weekend would be pretty much the same.

“Not much,” he replied, “what about you?”

She brought the chip to her lips and chewed thoughtfully.

“I’ve been invited to Charlie’s party, but I haven’t got anybody to go with,” she explained.

Charlie was an older student who lived near to where she came from in the West Country. He had a house in Brighton, played in a band and threw some wild parties, by all accounts.

He looked at her for a moment, wondering how to pitch his reply.

“I would go with you anywhere, I think you’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met, I love you. I dream of you being mine, to spend all my time with you, to make you happy and spend my life with you, because you are beautiful inside and out.”

Is what he wanted to say.

Instead, he shrugged his shoulders and tutted.

“Did you have anybody in mind?” he asked.

She lowered her head and looked at him through her long, dark eyelashes.

“Would you come with me?”

He counted in his head, one, two, three. Don’t sound too keen, too desperate.

“Well, I don’t have any other plans. Sure, if you want me to.”

She shifted in her chair, then stood up and gave him a hug, her smooth cheek touching his bristled, unshaven face. Once more he felt his insides melt and the breath leave his body in the ecstasy of the moment.

“Thank you,” she purred, her voice deep and sultry.

With that, she went back to eating the chips and telling him about the small holding where she lived with her parents and three younger brothers.

“You’ll have to come and visit one day,” she said brightly.

He gazed at her, the dimples in her cheeks as she smiled, her small hands touching her necklace, aware of his attentions.

He smiled back.

“I’d like that very much,” he said.

****

 

34 years have passed since this couple sat in the coffee shop. She returned to the small holding, to her parents and her brothers.

The boy sitting with her made his visit as promised. Of course, she wouldn’t have had any trouble getting somebody to take her to Charlie’s party, with a stream of male admirers. Going back to the flat and showing up in the student bar was no coincidence.

She chose him.

Thirty years ago they emerged from a small church that could be seen from that small holding, man and wife. They have two wonderful children, now adults themselves and live in a pleasant rural village, near to where they wed.

The boy’s dream came true and even though her dark curls are now a different colour and his hair is greying, she still has her beautiful skin and amazing eyes and is still an incredible person.

And he still loves and cherishes her as much as he did when he watched her eat her chips with Worcestershire Sauce in the coffee shop.

And he always will.

 

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Technold Fan – The Wombats at O2 Academy Birmingham

Wordpretzels, yet another music event to tell you about – I am a massive fan of The Wombats, despite being a man in my 50s. Both of my children, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny are also fans, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive my ticket as a Christmas gift from Master Johnny, which meant I would be with a group consisting of five 18 year old lads, a 22 year old woman – and me.

Our tickets were for the circle – having been to Bristol O2 Academy a few times, I wasn’t expecting to see terraced seating, but there it was. I had mixed feelings, the aged part of me appreciated the fact I could sit down and watch the entertainment without getting jostled, the youth inside wanted the excitement of jumping up and down to the music. Master Johnny suggested that they were all going to stand up as soon as The Wombats appeared.

In my cosy seat in the circle, I had time to observe the audience around me with an alarming realisation. They were all young people, which I am not. I desperately scanned the crowd for a glimpse of grey hair or a shiny bald pate. It took a couple of minutes before I had located a couple of other audience members who looked as if they were in my age bracket and relaxed. Soon I realised there were older people filling the seats surrounding me, which should have made me feel better, but no. I reassessed the situation. The majority of ‘older gig attendees’ were in fact playing the role of parent, accompanying their teenage children.

The first support band, Team Me, took to the stage, announcing they were Norwegian. I wondered if they may have connections with Tord from The Wombats, whose family come from Norway, or perhaps it was just coincidence. They gave a good performance, one that made me check out their videos on You Tube the following day. A six piece band (I wondered how you ever made money in a band with so many members), the mix was slightly distorted, which made me consider whether not quite so much care is taken over the support band’s overall sound.

Darlia had more problems with the sound system. The lead singer struggled to be heard during their opening song, but suddenly had the volume turned up to 11 when the engineer plugged something in. A three piece conventional guitar band following in the footsteps of The Arctic Monkeys and The Wombats. The band’s image seemed rather confused – imagine a lead guitarist who looks like Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, the drummer from an Oi band and a bassist who could fit neatly into The Clash. The songs were loud, rocky and enjoyed immensely by the seething mass in the stalls as they jumped and waved their arms, a boiling sea of youthful exuberance.

Then the main event as The Wombats took the stage. The plan to stand up was quickly discouraged by the vigilant stewards as ‘Murph’ said hello and launched into ‘Your Body is a Weapon’, one of the tracks from the new album Glitterbug. The songs we loved came thick and fast – Greek Tragedy, Head Space, the anthem that got me into The Wombats initially – Moving to New York. Murph suggested we all dance, ‘even those of you in the circle’. The kids looked at the stewards, then at me as I leapt to my feet. I could sense their shrug of relief as they decided if this conventional old boy was going to stand up, they sure could as well. The stewards waited patiently for the song to end before getting us all to sit down again.

Murph. Dan and Tord in action.

Old man’s view of The Wombats. No I don’t have shaky hands. I was pogoing.

The fantastic songs continued – Kill the Director, The English Summer, Party in a Forest, each one a challenge to stand up once more, irresistible when the opening bars of Techno Fan reverberated around the auditorium. What a tune. A nod to their origins with Little Miss Pipedream and Jump into The Fog, they left the stage to inevitable cheers, returning for an encore of Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves) and of course, Let’s Dance to Joy Division.

By this time, I was pogoing, hot, sweaty and happy. I was 18 all over again and The Wombats were brilliant. Driving home from Birmingham we listened to more Wombats, singing along to Schumacher the Champagne (they didn’t play this live). We all agreed that The Wombats made great music, their only fault being that it’s so good, you listen to it until you’re tired of it and have to stop for a few months before returning and enjoying all over again. That’s the great thing about a new Wombats album. Something else you can listen to again and again, songs growing on you, your favourite track changing, just like the old days when you’d listen to an album the whole way through rather than ‘stream tracks’. I never knew I was a Technold fan.

 

 

 

 

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I Married a Chartered Accountant Epilogue – Financial Numpty

Lady Barton St Mary instructed me to set up my side of an online joint mortgage application, having completed her own. Amazingly, I managed to do the computery bit, all the time worrying that I may have completed some financial transaction that cost us all of our worldly goods and would cause Lady BSM to do something unimaginably unpleasant to me with a fountain pen. All I had to do was telephone the bank and ‘activate’ my account. I love all this jargon; as a child I dreamed of being Illya Kuryakin in The Man from Uncle and being ‘activated’ by a computer. However, this wasn’t how I’d imagined it would turn out. Anyway, I called.

(Automated answer machine and funky music that initially greets you).

Bank: Hello, The Bank, James speaking. How may I help you?

Me: Hello James. I’d like to activate my account mortgage online thingy.

Bank: Certainly. We just have to go through a few routine security questions.

Me: (Swallow something large) O.K.

Bank: Firstly, do you have any other accounts with us?

Me: (silence).

Bank: Hello?

Me: Hello!

Bank: Ermm… do you have any other accounts with us?

Me: I don’t know.

Bank: (stifled laughter, I imagine James looking at colleague and pointing to phone) Ah, that’s OK, we’ll try something else.

Me: I’m not very good at this am I?

Bank: It’s fine, sir, honestly. (Image of James putting me onto speaker phone and special ‘I’ve got a live one!’ notice lighting up in call centre).

Bank: Let’s try something else. What’s your memorable question?

Me: I have a memorable question?

Bank: (James with wavy mouth, shoulders shaking) Yes, sir. Could you tell me what your memorable question is?

Me: I can’t remember.

(James stuffs fist in mouth and raises eyes to sniggering co-workers).

Bank: Never mind. Just tell me how much money you’re asking to borrow.

Me: (Silence).

Bank: Sorry?

Me: Oh sorry. I didn’t say anything.

Bank: Sorry. I just wanted to know how much money you wished to borrow.

Me: I don’t know.

Bank: (James making lunatic whirly finger signs next to his head)

Me: I think perhaps I should call back.

Bank: Well, if you think that’s best, sir…

Me: Yes, I think I’ll do that. Thanks, bye.

Bank: Thanks yes, speak to you later.

(As I hang up phone, hear delirious laughter from entire call centre staff echoing in my ears).

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I Married a Chartered Accountant

I’ve had a wonderful week at home with Lady Barton St Mary, during which we’ve continued with our retirement practice, ‘Sorting Stuff Out’ and ‘Getting Things Done’.

‘Sorting Stuff Out’ means revising all the clothes in drawers and wardrobes and giving/throwing away anything that is worn out/stained/on reflection a lousy choice. This was something Lady BSM was very keen to do, since she appears to think I am encroaching into her area of the big wardrobe with all my shirts, which may be a valid point. To be fair, her clothes do occupy 75% of a triple wardrobe, a 6 drawer chest of drawers, a blanket box and a bedside chair known as a chairdrobe. Nevertheless, my increasing sartorial interest has put her on her guard.

I did manage to reduce my clothes territory slightly, but still not quite to the satisfaction of her ladyship, I feel.

‘Getting Things Done’ is also an excellent exercise in having a fulfilling life, but includes the one particular area that leaves me at a disadvantage – namely, finances.

You see, not only is Lady Barton St Mary a beautiful and intelligent alpha female and responsible for running a multi-national company, she’s also a fully qualified chartered accountant, which means that

  1. She likes to be in control and
  2. quite rightly, she deals with all of our finances.

This also means that I have to make very little effort when it comes to dealing with financial matters. Let me put that another way. I make no effort when it comes to financial matters.

This week, we had two financial ‘Getting Things Done’ things that needed to get done. Firstly, visit the bank and speak to a financial adviser. Secondly, file the huge piles of paper that had accumulated in the kitchen and file it away as necessary. What follows is a typical example of my experience in dealing with finance.

Visiting the Financial Adviser

“Come in, come in,” said the cheery young man in a grey three piece suit, shaking our hands.

“Duncan,” he explained, leading us into his office on the top floor of the bank and offering us a seat.

He gave us a brief history of his career before explaining he ‘liked to ask lots of questions’. Oh dear, I thought,  I’m sure these questions aren’t going to be about the next series of Game of Thrones or whether Deal or No Deal has been better since they introduced box 23 and Noel started wearing suits… They’d be about finances.

Duncan looked at me.

“So, what sort of savings accounts do you have?” he enquired of me. I stared back at him. I’m sure his shirt was a Pierre Cardin. Lady BSM answered. His glanced over at her and then back at me.

“How much do you have in your current account?” he continued, a thin smile on his lips, an attempt to hide the look in his eyes. Yes, definitely Pierre Cardin. He wore a purple tie to go with the fine purple check of his shirt. I suddenly worried that I’d relaxed my jaw and was gawking at Duncan with my mouth wide open. Lady BSM answered and Duncan, satisfied with this outcome, did what all financial advisers do to me when interrogating us as a couple. He shifted in his seat and faced Lady BSM for the rest of the meeting, whilst I struggled to fathom out what the hell was going on. The following conversation wasn’t exactly what was said, but how it was interpreted in my butterfly brain.

“Have you considered the fiscal culminultitude of index linked statutory elements of inheritance tax in the next five years? It may be better to invest in some short term inelastic fulmination of percentile increments to eliminate the possibility of a footsie platitude adjustment.”

“True, but we must wait and see how the latest budget projections and the changes in The Finance and Dividend Act which may counterbalance any monetary vicissitudes,” countered Lady BSM.

“Of course,” sighed Duncan, enraptured at Lady BSM’s sound business acumen, whilst I counted the buttons on his suit cuff.

We left Duncan’s office having ‘Got Things Done’.

Filing Our Piles

What our piles looked like.

What our piles looked like.

This is definitely an exercise I cannot carry out on my own. I realise that all these bits of paper with numbers on mean something, but which ones are important and need filing and which ones need throwing away is Lady BSM’s department.

I must, at this juncture, point out that she doesn’t think she’s like an accountant at all. She certainly doesn’t look like a stereotypical accountant, but she does show the classic characteristics of one. For example, the other day she was tapping away on her laptop whilst watching TV, creating a spreadsheet. Not for work, but primarily, as far as I could tell, for fun.

So when it came to filing our piles, I just tried to categorise them and allow Lady BSM to do the rest. We appeared to have insurance documents dating back over the past 10 years, along with pension statements, bank accounts, ISAs, shares, electricity and oil bills.

Each piece of paper was considered by Lady BSM; at one point, she held a sheaf of oil delivery invoices, smiling benignly.

“Do we need all of them?” I asked. She frowned momentarily.

“Well, no, but I do like to look back in the fluctuations in prices and see how we’ve done,” she replied, dewy eyed.

That’s when I realised she really was an accountant. All this financial paperwork was interesting and exciting to her – ‘amusing bank statements’, ‘annual pension annuity forecasts I have loved’, ‘my 5 greatest index linked ISAs’…

Of course, I did my bit by shredding all the confidential papers that were surplus to requirements.

Again, we were successful, disposing of a couple of trees’ worth of paper and getting our filing system into some sort of order.

I avoided asking the question I really wanted to ask until today, merely because I know that I rarely manage to listen to the answer – namely, get an understanding of our where our money is.

“So,” I asked casually over breakfast, “how many accounts do we have?”

Lady BSM looked at me, wide eyed.

“Depends,” she said.

“What?”

“Do you mean a relationship with an individual financial institution or actual accounts?”

I looked at her, wide eyed.

Since she was already in the process of playing on Excel, she shifted her laptop screen to face me and brought up a list of names and accounts. She eyed me suspiciously.

“You’re bored already, aren’t you?”

I denied it.

I am aware that my wife is a financial genius who can generate an income out of anything,but by the time we got to the second page of her spreadsheet and the 24th account, I’d drifted off.

But at least I’m not panicking about her birthday present this year.

I’m going to collect all her favourite utility bills and put them in a folder. It will keep her amused for hours…

 

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