Go down and bolt the door.

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.


37 thoughts on “Go down and bolt the door.

  1. What I find most interesting is the way different couples work their finances. We have had a joint account since the day we married, and so there isn’t this sort of bartering going on. But I do also have a sep account…..

      1. Thanks, Pseu 🙂 It has acquitted itself well so far. We had a joint account for a while but the bartering got worse, so here I am independent once more…

    1. My kettle is old. I have had it since I was a student. I expect anyday to see replicas of it for sale in a retro section of John Lewis or Lakeland. I think the key to its longevity is that is very basic, and I don’t drink tea. 🙂

      1. my first kettle was bought out of my first earnings as an nursing auxiliary – after it was used in a student house / nurses house for 5 years (that was a LOT of tea) it kept going for years and years. However since then we have needed several.

  2. I can see how all that works but I wish I knew how to make the dog/dogs sleep peacefully instead of bloody barking all day.

    1. Had to answer this despite migraine, Roger…fill a washing up bottle with water. When they bark, squirt water at them. Stops them in their tracks, quite quickly you only have to hold the bottle and they shut up. If it works on Macaulay it should work on anyone.

      Peaceful day tomorrow.

  3. Hilarious! We do indeed play our “hold-out” games and the Lovely Miss TK often wins as I will usually give in and do whatever deed needs done. Ours is usually over things like unloading the dishwasher or something along those silly lines. We also have separate bank accounts along with a shared savings account and we will occasionally have to figure out just who is going to break down and buy something that we both need. It usually turns out that if it’s a minor thing, she buys and if it’s a bigger item, I buy. I must say it is fun for me when she buys. GOOOOAAAAAALLLLL!!

  4. This is so funny! I could just hear your lovely Elizabeth Bennett tones, complete with noisy mental subtext! Isn’t it funny to think of the games we play…and we all do! I’ve certainly changed my tone to effect the outcome of a stalemate! I found this story very charming, Kate. Now the folk tune you highlighted is certainly new to me! I do hope you’re feeling better by now! Debra

  5. Our “kettle” is a toaster oven, and it has moved from a bolted door contest between us to my husband’s personal windmill at which to tilt. Always an adventure, marriage.

    And your inner Elizabeth Bennet? Oh, she’s brilliant 😉

    1. Yup. It’s that marriage thing, I think, LameAdventures. When two people cleave together, two halves of the same soul, a little light recreational quibbling adds variety.

  6. I think joint accounts as Pseu says reduce the bartering. I’m sure there’s plenty of other things to argue about though. Like who has to turn the light off. Or who hates what light fitting the most. 🙂

  7. A belated belly laugh, we parry about taking out the rubbish – tiresome task as it has to be hauled up the hill for municipal collection! Hope that dreadful headche is a thing of the past today 🙂

  8. He, He, He!
    I totally relate to your mothers interpretation of her marriage vows. That is how it works in our household. I even, sometimes, get him to pay my insurance and mobile bills. (Heck he earns more than I do) Time to check if he has upped my insurance cover 😀

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