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Reading Aloud 2

Hell has no fury like a woman scorned

My husband threw this sentence at me when I told him that I wouldn’t ever put my foot into Nessie’s house again. We then had an interesting discussion which we started in the living-room and continued in bed, because it was late. It had been caused by a telephone call we received at 10pm. Who on earth calls at that time of day ? In former years I would have known it must be Nessie’s wife. However, I was totally out of touch with her. In fact I had done little less than snub her, ignoring her approaches and not returning a visit she had paid me some seven months ago, not that she had stayed long, conversation had never been easy, a gesture on her part, I suppose.

I answered the telephone and it was Nessie’s wife. I didn’t recognize her voice at first, not being used to it any more. She said she wanted to say bye-bye before setting off with Nessie on a tour round the world which would keep them away for four months. She expected to see her friends again, she said, in the spring. Nessie would be back a month earlier. She inquired how we all were, the children, my husband and no doubt I was busy. I was glad she put the answer into my mouth and assumed that they, too, were well. Yes, we’re fine, she said. I inquired after the bees. I heard they had all survived which was very lucky considering the winter we’d been through. I wished her good luck and good fun on her journey, for which she warmly thanked me, sending her ‘love’ to everybody at my end. I suppose I could have sent my love to the bees, but wasn’t present-minded enough. So I said no more and we rang off.

Returning into the living-room I wondered aloud why she should want to stay in touch with me. My husband said we had quite a lot in common : food, medicine … I declared I wasn’t interested in food any more. My husband said this was new to him. I said that nowadays I eat what I want to at home, not worrying at all what I had elsewhere. This seemed to have escaped his attention. He was silent. I asked him how he felt about my visiting Nessie and his wife after all that had happened. Had he not every interest in my not going ? He shrugged his shoulders saying, why should he.

In the ensuing discussion it turned out that it was perfectly natural for a man to look at a woman, so natural, it was unfair to take offence. Where do any ill feelings and upsets originate then ? I asked. He told me it depended on how the woman reacted to any passes made at her. Was it not natural for a woman to look at a man ? I asked. After a little hesitation he conceded that. Strictly speaking there could be no grounds for any ill feelings then, I concluded. He found this difficult to accept.
One very upsetting factor for him, I understood, was the enormous difference in age between the man and the woman in question. How can a woman want an old man in preference to her husband ? If at least the man was in the same age group, he would be able to understand. I asked, are you sure ? He wasn’t.
There was another disturbing element. The fact that an old man or maybe another man of whatever age held an attraction for me that he could not offer, made him jealous, he said. I pointed out, this other man couldn’t help it and therefore could hardly be blamed. He agreed. Can the woman help this state of affairs ? Probably not, he said. What about ill feelings against the woman then ? They are clearly not justified ! He was reluctant to admit that. Instead he tried to argue that there were ‘feelings’ involved with one partner, the legal one, of course, and plain physical satisfaction with everybody else. I reminded him of what I had heard from him on a previous occasion : a man would like many women, perfectly natural ! Where did feelings come in ? I failed to see this and he couldn’t enlighten me either.

During our holiday we had watched a T.V. programme where people were interviewed about their relationship with the opposite sex. Were they happy with just one partner ? One youngster, hardly twenty years old, had said with refreshing openness : Oh no ! It would be too boring ! My husband didn’t say any more, except that he remembered the programme, too. He was cold. The drop in temperature, of course. I should have put another blanket on the bed. And then the chilling conversation … He got up and went downstairs which alarmed me, because I didn’t know whether he would come back. He did, with another blanket. The whole bed was uncomfortable. Time we did something about the mattress. Hopelessly out of shape and much too hard. The springy synthetic mattress he had used on holiday had apparently been heaven compared to this.

We said ‘good night’ and caught a few hours sleep. In the morning he was tired. Why was that, the children asked him and were told he hadn’t slept enough because ‘Mummy likes to engage me in philosophical discussions in bed’.