The secret to surviving middle age, says a survey, is a good marriage, a good breakfast and a puppy. The Vicar and I have spent 13 years-worth of contented evenings side by side under our tartan rugs; I never confront a day without sultana bran inside me and, although I can't vouch for the power of a pup, I seem to be plodding reliably through middle-age, so I assume two cats can count.
But there is more to marriage than this. It has, finds a different survey, an enhancing effect on men's bodies and women's minds. And men who wish to push those enhanced bodies into antiquity, while steering clear of Alzheimers, should, according to a third poll, select wives who are younger than them and clever to boot. So far so good. I'm a year younger than the Vicar and, unlike him, I've mastered the purpose of all the attachments on our vacuum cleaner, so I am most probably clever. He can pace the Seven Sisters without a stroke and my mind has undoubtedly flourished on a dinner-time diet of parish gossip. So yes, all in all, I can recommend marriage.
But, while there is an industry of manuals to guide women through motherhood, few exist on the subject of man-handling and I am concerned that inexperienced women will take the plunge oblivious to the facts of life. For matrimony, my dears, is a state full of mysteries and the more you know about these, the sooner you'll accept that there are, er, certain differences between the male and female sex. It's for your enlightenment, therefore, that I am prepared to bare all here:
A husband who strews his dirty laundry on the bedroom floor is time-pressed; a time-pressed wife who asks him to put it in the laundry basket is a nag.
A husband will grab a towel (usually his wife's) when he steps out of the shower and will, due to time pressure (see above), abandon it sodden on the marital bed (always on his wife's side).
A husband has a hound-like impulse to trail his presence round the house, usually in the form of empty loo roll tubes, unhung bath mats, strewn food wrappers and an unemptied plugful of that night's supper after washing up.
A husband who minds the children for a day is granting a favour. A wife who minds the children for the day is fulfilling a duty.
A wife's Hoovering can rouse a husband from his afternoon nap, yet he is deaf to the night-time yells of a vomiting child.
When a wife can't get the car/kettle/DVD player to work it's because she's a woman. When the husband is equally ineffectual it's because it's broken.
What have I left out? Share your experience here, ladies. And gents, since doubtless it works both ways, what should grooms-to-be be told about women?