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“Divorce Day” and a New Year’s Resolution: make the most of what you have

“How about a bottle of your Montagny Premiere Cru?” asked my husband in his best courtroom voice. We were having lunch in Scott’s Restaurant in London on New Year’s Day. It’s a smart restaurant just off Park Lane and a perfect place in which to splash out and toast the New Year.

Or should I say, it’s a perfect place if you are in London… And we should have been in the USA.  Because of the snow at Heathrow and then the blizzard in New York, we couldn’t fly – despite the best efforts of the brilliant Virgin Atlantic. So London it was, and probably a good job too. My husband went down with a severe dose of Man Flu: a condition that seems to last forever, borne bravely over several long days and even longer nights.

I tried very hard to be the dutiful wife, exercising great forbearance with all the incredibly loud coughs, sneezes and wheezes until one sneezing, wheezing, coughing fit made me say in exasperation:

“I bet George Clooney wouldn’t act like you do with a bad cold”

To which the reply was:

“I bet Nigella Lawson would be a much better nurse than you. She’d have got me better in no time.”

Well, we can both dream!

On New Year’s Eve I climbed into a taxi cab and chatted to the Cockney cabbie who knew everything about everything, including how to be a divorce lawyer.

“D-Day soon”, he said, referring to “Divorce Day”: the first Monday back to work in January when, traditionally, there is supposed to be a rise in instructions. I maintain that Divorce D-Day is something of a myth. Even so, I told him that when the annual stats are next released, there will probably be a rise in the divorce rate. This may be due to the effect of the recession on “Middle England”: the cost of living rising significantly against a fixed income, increasing pressure on families.

I didn’t find a receptive ear.

“Nah”, said the Cockney cabbie. “I put it down to gettin’ married too young and then, when you ain’t expecting it, fallin’ in love with someone else.”

It turned out that a few years ago, he had fallen madly in love with another woman. Unabashed he described to me, a complete stranger, the extent of his feelings for her: how he had “fallen in love”, experiencing passionate feelings he had never had for his wife. But he didn’t get divorced. Instead, he and the great love of his life went their separate ways.

“Never got over her”, he added. “It would make a great film.”

But then he added that his feelings for his wife were “only the same” feelings that he had for his parents and his children. What did he mean? How could he minimise those feelings? I didn’t interrupt him, even though I wanted to. He had taken stock and his passion for the other woman had not been able to drive him from his feelings for his family.

I had the worst New Year’s Eve ever, due to my husband’s Man Flu. We decided to listen to Big Ben chiming midnight from our bed.

“Good job we aren’t in Times Square”, said my husband as he took some more aspirin with a hot lemon drink, before blowing his nose loudly and climbing into bed.

We heard the Millennium Wheel fireworks exploding loudly overhead. At least, I did.  My husband was already in the Land of Nod. When the countdown began I nudged him (gently, I thought) in the ribs. One eye opened. “Yow! What’s happening?” Then, as realisation dawned: “Noisy outside, isn’t it?” He wished me Happy New Year, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, turned over and went back to sleep. And coughed and sneezed all through the night.

George Clooney, meanwhile, was probably having dinner and champagne with some glamorous woman, on the terrace of his villa on Lake Como.

The next day we were due to go to Scott’s for our New Year lunch. Thankfully my husband felt a little better: not totally better, as he said, because he was still coughing, but almost better.

As we were being seated on a banquette at the back of the restaurant, I looked to our left and noticed a very well-known couple.  My husband didn’t see them at first.  Instead he was coughing, then diving into the bread and reading the menu. He declared that he would go easy on the wine and food because he “still wasn’t himself”.

Then, glancing round, he too noticed the famous couple and his mouth dropped open. Yes, his favourite Domestic Goddess, the gorgeous Nigella Lawson and her husband Charles Saatchi were sitting only a few feet away from us, having their lunch.

My husband’s immediate recovery from his illness was nothing short of miraculous. He ordered the bottle of Montagny Premiere Cru, all traces of a croaky throat gone, and tucked into a fabulous lunch. “How’s the Dover sole?” he enquired of the waiter while gazing in the opposite direction, towards Nigella.  He couldn’t hide his delight.  All trace of the cold disappeared. We had delicious wine and food, we laughed at the terrible night before and soon the memories of that grotty New Year’s Eve had simply floated away with his Man Flu….

We watched Nigella and her husband leave and my own husband, with his inimitable sense of humour, said: “You know, I bet plenty of people think I deserve a medal after 29 years of marriage to you.

“But it’s flown and I wouldn’t swap you for Nigella, even if she can cook like a Goddess – and she isn’t bad looking, either.”

I knew what he meant. I fancy George Clooney too and wouldn’t say no to living by Lake Como; but in real life my husband’s not bad looking, when he doesn’t have a cold. And he can always make me laugh. As for all the bells and whistles, so what? Life, not make believe, is what counts.

That clever London cabbie knew it too. When he had to make the choice, he knew the true value of what he already had.

Happy New Year to everyone.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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