The Downton Effect

My married, forty-something friend Emily says that she has had to buy condoms and there was a problem. I'm not sure that I want to hear of this problem over toad-in the-hole, but she continues.  The condoms, she explains, came in packs of five  or packs of twelve. Emily is a thrifty girl. She always buys eggs and loo rolls by the dozen, but this twelve-pack confounded her. The problem was the use-by date: 2013. 'Am I realistically going to get through twelve condoms in two years?' she mused to herself in the middle of Family Planning. Reason prevailed and she saved £3.30 on the five.

I am interested in this because I've read in the papers that couples in their forties have more vigorous relationships than those twenty years younger. Then I notice that our companion, Serena, is silent. Serena is also forty-something and she is also married. I ask her roguishly whether she'd have bought a dirty dozen. She says that her money would be more usefully spent on a set of replacement Hoover bags.

Now I am intrigued. I decide to quiz a couple more middle-aged friends, and, under the pretext of mentioning the church roof appeal, slip in a question about their conjugal routines. One replies that her husband finds his fulfilment in Delia Smith. Another has a husband with needs that are not culinary and that tend to interfere with Saturday Live. And so they've reached a polite compromise. 'Go on, then!' she sighs patiently, 'if you'll make me a cuppa after.'

A third friend mentions Downton Abbey. When the credits roll and the National Grid surges with the boiling of nine million kettles, she and her husband generate their own electricity on flattened sofa cushions. 'After every episode?' I ask incredulously.

Downton Abbey keeps me up twenty minutes after my usual bedtime. When it's over I barely have energy to squeeze the toothpaste. Then I am enlightened. That ravenous couple began their breeding early. They now have teenagers who hibernate for most of the weekend in their bedrooms, while the rest of us are wiping toddler tantrums off the living room walls. I realise that this is, in a way, good news and I resolve to tell Emily that in 2013, when her eight-pack has expired and her kids are grown, she'll be splurging on bumper boxes again.


  1. This would be even funnier if it wasn't so true!

  2. Just found you at Newbie Tuesday over on the Britmums site and am so glad I clicked through!
    We are also at the toddler stage so pretty much need to schedule it on the planner these days if there's any chance of it happening! Forever the optimist though, I'd always go for the bumper pack :-)

  3. Whoops! It is, of course, Delia Smith who nestles on his pillow.

  4. Very funny. I wonder if I could get my husband to watch Downton... he's got a bit of a phobia of costume dramas and now I think I understand.

    As an aside, when does middle-age start?

  5. In my case, Ellen, middle age was gratefully embraced around the age of 23. But you can start it whenever you like. All you need is a tartan sofa rug...

  6. What happens when one of the channels does a Downton Abbey catch-up weekend, with back to back episodes? Sex marathon?

  7. Very very funny post, is it me or does it seem more enthralling because you are the wife of a Vicar?

  8. As you are the wife of a vicar, I hesitate to mention the reason I came up with for her not needing birth control...suffice to say I suspect that this lady could well be somewhat understating things!

  9. Very good! I have a friend who insists her husband watches Downton and not Spooks if he wants to ahem 'park his car in her garage' on a Sunday night...

  10. Ha. Great post.

    I have had a tartan rug for many years. We have an open-topped MG and my husband laughs when I use the tartan rug to keep my knees warm. All I need is a blue rinse and flask of coffee and I can slide right into OAP life.

  11. Now I don't watch Downton Abbey but maybe after reading this I should! Seeing as there's a distinct lack of Nigella to get Papasaurus in the mood these days...


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