One of my favourite stories of bartering with my husband as a repost today.
There is this English folk song. Hundreds of years old.
It is called Go Down and Bolt The Door -O.
The lyrics, as with all the best folk songs, tell a story. This one concerns the Blunt couple: purveyors of fine ale of which, one night, they partake in full.
Before long they are only good for the journey upstairs to bed: and they forget to bar the door.
Once underneath the eiderdown, a journey down to remedy the situation, and make the house secure, seems untenable: and they strike a bargain. They will have a contest of silence: the first one to speak a word must go down and bar the door.
So, of course, no-one speaks.
Three travellers happen by and discover the unlocked door. They come in, ransack the house, and drink the admirably-stocked cellar dry. Still, neither partner says a word. They charge up the stairs and take the wife out of the bed ready to have their wicked way with her. Finally, the husband shouts out to upbraid the travellers.
And far from being grateful for her deliverance the wife shouts: “You spoke the first word, John Blunt. Now go down and bolt the door…”
It’s bawdy and excessive, but it does sum up these little unspoken duels we marrieds have occasionally.
Phil and I have been playing a game. It’s called Who Is Going To Pay For A New Kettle.
Our old kettle is old and grey and full of limescale, to paraphrase some Irish poet. It has begun to wheeze excessively when boiling the water for our myriad cups of tea, and it makes visitors wince painfully to look at it.
About a year ago a near relative told another that they were terrified of their kettle ending up looking like ours. It looks barnacled, as if it has spent a little too much time on the subaquatic decks of The Titanic.
And about three weeks ago, it began to leak.
I did not, however, take measures to replace it, but in the spirit of a folk song composed hundreds of years ago, I waited.
And so did Phil.
The first one to surrender and run shrieking to the local electrical store would experience a financial loss which neither of us fancied.
And this morning, Phil snapped.
“Do you have time to do something for me?” he enquired, ever mindful of my time.
I informed him in Elizabeth-Bennett tones of courteous acquiescence that yes, husband, I did.
“I wonder”, he ventured “if I give you my bank card, would you be able to pop to one of the electrical stores and buy a new kettle?”
While my outer visage altered not one jot from the Elizabeth Bennett composure which was its wont, some crazed footballer charged delighted around my mind, gesticulating wildly and uttering that unforgettable victory cry.
This evening a new hi-tech filtration kettle lights up a pleasing shade of blue as it sits in the dark on our working surface.
The kettle’s filtration system means we may never see barnacles on this particular boiler of the family water. But one day, it will give up the ghost, oh yes, one day, mark my words, it will go. And then, unless I am a multi-millionaire, I am quite sure we will duel once more.
Meanwhile, the dog is sleeping peacefully, but we both know he will need letting out in about half an hour.
I think a barter session is in order.