Mrs Ford was understandably perturbed this morning when I announced that I am increasingly warming to the idea of spending my latter years travelling with a gentleman companion.
“Obviously our circumstances would have to change,” I told her. “I don’t envisage some wrinkly ménage a trois.
“Nor am I suggesting that, after 45 years of unblemished heterosexuality (to pinch a phrase from the broadcaster Martin Kelner), I am about to spend the rest of my life batting for the other side.
“It’s just that if – God forbid! – anything should happen to you when we are in our sixties or seventies, then I really can’t be bothered with the rigmarole of the courting ritual again. After all, men are instinctively bachelors at heart.”
“Yes,” I said, warming to my theme. “I can quite easily see myself aged 70 in a crumpled linen suit and panama hat, boarding a luxury liner bound for Morocco or Zanzibar in the company of a similarly attired and elderly male friend (we’ll call him Charles).
“For purposes of economy Charles and I would share the same cabin, although we would of course occupy separate single beds. We would dine together, although little would be said other than to confirm the choice of claret. We would sit together on the foredeck, reading newspapers and hardback mysteries, occasionally making some acerbic comment on the day’s events or catty remark about the deficiencies of the author’s writing style.
“And when the ship docked we would stroll the souks and bazaars together, poking around in trinket stalls, sampling street food, haggling with the natives. At lunchtime we would have a drink at a bar – G&T for me, whisky and soda for Charles. An hour before departure we would return, laden with gifts for nephews and nieces back in England.
“The other passengers would smile indulgently and call us “the boys” and they would, of course, assume we were a couple of ageing homosexuals. But we wouldn’t complain, even though if we were a pair of glamorous old ladies they’d just assume we were rich widows.
“Our journeying done, we would retire to a rambling cottage by the sea and spend most of our time snoozing in leather armchairs and dreading visits by friends and family. Eventually one of us would die, at which point the other would begrudgingly make the funeral arrangements. Increasingly aghast at the modern world, we may even have agreed upon a suicide pact.”
Having explained myself, Mrs F seemed less than mollified.
“But of course there’s no reason why you and I couldn’t do the same,” I said hurriedly. “What I want most of all is for the us to spend the rest of our lives together” .
“Oh, I shouldn’t be too hasty about that,” she said, turning to the contact pages of the Times with a gleam in her eye. “You only live once, after all.”