'You're not a typical vicar's wife,' says the sacristan as I'm piling dirty plates at the end of a parish lunch.
'Noone would guess you're married to a vicar,' says a Sunday school mother, watching me help a brace of toddlers to bring the gospels to life with a pile of Whiskas boxes.
I am coming to the conclusion that they are right. At ministerial training college, where ordinands learn to be priests, there are no courses to prepare their spouses for the fine art of being a clergy wife. Often these spouses are creatures in shock having married a banker or a publican before the Calling came. They had lived in houses of their own choosing on secular salaries, baked cakes only on their childrens' birthdays and had lie-ins on Sundays.
My Vicar was already completed when I married him so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I was prepared for a guest room bulging with bags of cast-offs for the church fair. I had mastered the diplomatic potential of a Bourbon Creme. I grew used to strangers emerging from the front room as I was waltzing the cat up the hallway and I found faith in the miracle that three plates of cheese sandwiches can nourish fifty souls in the vicarage garden. I was the stereotypical vicar's wife:
Or I thought I was.
What I hadn't realised, as I equipped myself with a seemly supply of tweed skirts, baking tins and smalltalk, was that I'd omitted the most obvious essential for vicarage life: rubber. For what noone warns you is that the lot of a vicar's wife is to be almost continually wet.
Whether it's the commute in your Sunday best to the remoter of your husband's two churches:
The attraction noone else will man at the summer fete:
The parish outing:
And the awkward occasions when - well, never mind!
The thing is, ladies, it could one day be you. There's no knowing when your husband might get that calling and, if it happens, I hope you're better prepared than I was. Don't let my sogginess frighten you. So long as you lay in an arsenal of Marigolds and several back-up wellies, you'll adapt to vicarage life like a duck to water. Just make sure your mascara is waterproof and take the plunge: