TAKE HEART, ZARA. THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAN ANNIVERSARY CARDS!
With two of our lovely grandchildren.
So Mike Tindall is being castigated by the gossip columnists for buying Zara a last-minute wedding anniversary card in Sainsbury's. The marriage will never last if he doesn't treat her with a better show of love and respect, is the message. All I can say is - tosh! And believe me, I speak as one who knows.
I come from a family who always sent one another cards on every possible occasion - goodness, my grandma even used to send my sister and me Valentine cards and pretend she didn't have the slightest idea where they had come from! When I married Terry 46 years ago next month I fully expected the same sort of tradition. The first Christmas after we were married I bought a huge card bearing the message 'To My Darling Husband at Christmas' and sent it to him. His reaction when he opened it was not at all what I had expected. Instead of delight, he looked dismayed. 'Does this mean I've got to send you one?' he asked grumpily. Naturally, I dissolved into tears. A couple of days later there was a huge card on the breakfast table with my name on the envelope. I opened it, feeling vindicated, to discover a card identical to the one I had sent him, except that it was 'To My Darling Wife'. He'd taken so much notice of my card to him, and the one he was buying he hadn't even noticed! Yes, I was upset all over again, but then we laughed about it, and propped the matching pair up side by side under the Christmas tree. I never expected a Christmas card from him again, and I've never had one.
I've never had an anniversary card or a Valentine card from him either, though, to give him his due, he is very good about birthdays. Well, the cards, anyway. My present has been known to arrive in the brown paper bag it was bought in.
As for bouquets ... flowers bought from a garage forecourt would have been far better than no flowers at all. For years and years, I never received a single bloom. When I was in hospital having my second baby all the husbands were arriving with bouquets, and I mentioned to the girl in the next bed that I'd be lucky to get any from Terry. 'Oh, you're wrong!' she said, spotting him walking across the car park. 'He has got flowers for you.' I was surprised - Terry buying flowers? I couldn't believe it. I was right to be doubtful. The flowers turned out to have been sent in for me by our next-door neighbour.
I must admit there were times when I felt pretty miffed, but then I realised. If Terry was the sort for the grand romantic gesture, he wouldn't have been the man I'd fallen in love with. No use getting upset about it. It wasn't that he wasn't generous, he was. He never has begrudged me anything. He just honestly couldn't see the point of that sort of thing and he wasn't going to change.
Having said that, there have been occasions since when he has bought me flowers. The publication of my second novel, Oriental Hotel, being a case in point. I was doing in a signing in a local bookshop when the florist arrived with the most beautiful bouquet - for me, from Terry. When I read the card, I was in tears again, this time of joy. Because I knew he'd done it absolutely to please me and for no other reason, and because it was so rare, made that bouquet, extra special. There were red roses too on our silver wedding anniversary, probably about the only ones in twenty-five years, and again, all the more special because of it.
We'll be celebrating our Golden Wedding in another four years - maybe, if I'm lucky, there will be flowers for me then too. But I'm not expecting a card, from Sainsbury's or otherwise. If I get one it will be a bonus. But far better to have an unromantic man and a happy marriage than the other way around. And that would be my message to Zara.