Christmas – the season for giving way
In a week's time Matchgirl and I will spend our first Christmas together as man and wife.
This won't be a complete novelty, for last year we enjoyed the great day undisturbed in the solitude of The Rural Retreat and plan to do so again, but not everything will be the same. Twelve months ago our Christmas cards were sent to individuals; now they're received by a couple – something Matchgirl has found rather unsettling.
The newish bride is proud of her own surname, which she's kept, so cards addressed to Mr and Mrs Turner have caused a certain amount of existential angst and the fear that one day she'll wake up to discover she's become a wee wifie with a tartan shopping trolley on wheels, sensible shoes, a bad hip and a desire to complain about the price of fish and the youth of today.
I think she's safe with regard to the shoes.
Another change involves our gift-giving. The lavishness inspired by new love last year has been curbed by a £20 total expenditure cap on presents for each other. This isn't because the love has waned – far from it – instead we're splashing out on a pre-Christmas weekend with the aristocracy. Matchgirl enjoys the good life.
Today we leave behind the Black Isle and travel over the bridge to Skye where we're to spend two days of luxury and gluttony at Kinloch Lodge, the hotel owned by cookery writer Lady Claire Macdonald.
That's the plan, anyway. At the time of writing the trip is in the balance because Matchgirl's beloved moggy, Bess, is recovering from a mystery ailment which left her with no appetite, little desire to leave her basket and even more lethargic than usual. All the baffled vet could offer was an antibiotic injection. Matchgirl's prescription includes delicatessen chicken and special cat milk placed so close to Bess's favourite snoozing spot that the patient has no need to walk.
I suspect that Bess enjoys this slavish attention, which could cost us dearly. If the malingering moggy doesn't appear to be restored to the acme of full health by the day of our departure Matchgirl is likely to abandon the substantial non-refundable price of the weekend in favour of nursing her pampered pet.
The dutiful husband will accept this without demur for the married man learns quickly that the answer to every wifely question is either "Yes, dear" or "Whatever you say, dear". "No" is never used except in response to queries of the does-my-bum-look-big-in-this variety.
Matchgirl, who's been known to suffer from a touch of hypochondria, has considered all possible causes of Bess's debilitation, including poison and feline HIV. More likely is that the remainder of The Rural Retreat's revengeful resident rodents put something nasty in her food dish. That, or the poorly puss suffered tinsel fatigue after exposure to the Christmas tree that's appeared in the corner of the living room.
In matters of fashion Matchgirl is subtle and stylish; she's sparing with her make-up and never overdoes the jewellery. But the annual dressing of the festive tree is carried out with all the restraint of a crazed magpie – there's no such thing as too much glitter, too many lights or too many baubles.
As for the sparkly silver deer which graze beneath the tree's multi-coloured branches, don't ask.
Christmas is the time for giving. The newish husband knows it's also the time for giving way.