10th June


My wife is always busy. She can’t sit still for a minute. At breakfast she’s wondering what we’ll have for dinner, and keeps jumping up to look in the fridge and in recipe books for inspiration. She leaves the table for other purposes too, for example to wipe a slight mark off a surface or to straighten a picture. And this is the pattern for the rest of the day. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate her commitment, but even if the house is spotless she finds things to clean, paintwork that needs retouching or rugs that need to be taken outside and beaten thoroughly – simply for being rugs. And before you accuse me, I do my share of the chores. I just don’t do them as quickly, as frequently or – I admit – as thoroughly as she does.

The thing is, she keeps saying she’s going to stop. She’s worked hard all her life, and now she wants to do less, at a more moderate pace. But she never does. She seems to have a psychological aversion to relaxation. One of these days, I fear, she’ll overdo it and go bang. And I really don’t want that to happen – and nor does she.

So I summoned up the ghost of Michel de Montaigne, and sat him in the library, and before long she found him there.

‘Who are you?’ she asked as she dusted around him.

‘I’m an old friend of your husband,’ Michel said. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Dusting the books,’ she said.

‘And when you’ve finished, what will you do?’

‘Wash all the glassware.’

‘I see. And after that?’

‘Weed the garden.’

‘And when you’ve done that, what then?’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘I’ll pour myself a glass of wine, sit in the sunshine with a book, and relax.’

‘I tell you what,’ Michel said, ‘why don’t you just do that now?’

I’ve asked her that myself a hundred times, but to no avail. However, as
soon as Michel said it, she stopped, thought about it for a few seconds, and said, ‘You’re absolutely right. I will.’ And she did.

He is charming, of course, and French. That must be what made the difference.

Reader: Jimmy Hutchison
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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