PETER RICHARDSON - A survival guide to 40-year hitch

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As you might expect of someone who has spent his working life in this inky trade, I love newspapers with a passion to equal the ones I maintain for cask-conditioned ale, pork pies and cricket.

That so many printed purveyors of news fight for survival against the unstoppable tide of technology and the avalanche of free information with which it submerges us, is a matter we may yet live to regret.

If the wider market is any guide, however, the best will survive in some form or other, which means my version of heaven on earth – a bacon sandwich, a pot of fresh coffee and a newly-delivered Sunday newspaper with more supplements inside it than Lance Armstrong – is safe for some time yet.

Of course, not everything that appears in newsprint gets my undivided attention and I include in this list, the harmless rubbish that is astrology and the squirm-inducing stuff that fills the problem pages.

Unfortunately the latter was unavoidable this week when I discovered that Monday’s newspaper had been deliberately left open on the sofa at that very page, and whose headline screamed:

“I want to end 40 boring years of marriage!”

Oh what a keen sense of humour that wife of mine has.

I think…

And such a timely jest too, as I type these words on the occasion of our ruby wedding anniversary, a milestone which grows in significance when you think that it crops up only once every two Preston Guilds.

Quite how we have reached this stage with our union still intact after so much water has flowed under the bridge is anyone’s guess, although I am reminded of my early days in the trade I mentioned earlier.

Forty-odd years ago, newspapers were so well endowed with reporters and photographers that the apprentices among them were sent out to interview couples who were celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss (a mere 40 was too common an occurrence back then).

The golden question was always: “Tell me, Mr and Mrs Bloggs, what is the key to a long and happy marriage?”

The answer was as inevitable as night following day: “We’ve had our ups and downs but we give and take and pull together,” they replied, at which point the young reporter and equally young photographer would struggle to suppress the giggles born of immature minds, before taking their leave and going off in search of the next scoop.

Only once, in the village of Eccleston as I recall, did an elderly couple depart from the script: “Tell me, Mr and Mrs Bloggs,” I said, “what is the key to a long and happy marriage?”

“Separate beds,” said he.

“In separate houses,” said she. “He’s only turned up to get his ugly mug in’t paper…”

Today’s celebrations are supposed to take the form of a family meal in a nice little Italian but the law of Mr Sod has once again intervened by conferring a vicious attack of tonsillitis on our eldest, which threatens postponement.

So it looks like I shall be buying Mrs R the usual half of best bitter and bag of cheese and onion in the Trousered Ferret taproom.

She’ll want to be home for Corrie, though.

On the gift front, my bride of 40 years had decreed that we shall be buying each other a commemorative piece of porcelain. She gets the sink, I get the bog.

In other words the downstairs toilet project I see absolutely no reason for, is getting underway.

Give and take, you see.

She gives the orders, I take them.

We’ll be celebrating gold before you know it.