Belfast Telegraph

If it turns out grass isn't greener, they always come home

By Gail Walker

Ah well. Look, I read the problem pages, too. It happens all the time.

Middle-aged bloke bored with the same-old, same-old, thinks he's getting the come-on from the wee doll down the road and next thing you know ... his head's turned and he's breathing in and standing all straight-backed and flashing that laddish grin every time she so much as glances in his direction. Alright darlin? Give me a splash of the old Hai Karate. Pass me the Grecian 2000.

'Oh yes,' he thinks, glancing in the bathroom mirror and tugging down his receding hairline, 'there's life in the old dog yet, fire in the, er, belly. The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune and all that.

'Just wait 'til she gets a load of me ... Little bit frayed around the edges but, all things considered, wearing rather well. Wait til she gets into bed with me. Nothing beats a bit of experience.'

Besides, the other half back at home has been taking him just a wee bit for granted of late. Barely notices him these days, if truth be told. There's no spontaneity now ... no spark. All the old passion has long since blown out, lost in the daily grind of responsibilities, money worries, burst pipes, the 11-plus. They can't even be bothered to argue any more.

So, with nary a backward glance at Him Indoors or the slightest thought for the rest of us, our deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness abandons the family home, leaves the school run, the mortgage problems and the dirty dishes to Peter Robinson and takes himself off to play the field in the Republic's presidential campaign, convinced they'll fall head over heels for his heady mix of charisma, rinsed through with a heady hint of danger.

Except they don't. Like I said, you read about it all the time. After the initial excitement of 'a bit of rough' wears off, the romance vanishes in the unforgiving morning light. He isn't all he made himself out to be; he's older, a bit more worn looking. As a partner for someone seeking a new start in life, new adventures, he's a bit old-fashioned, a bit too set in his ways. Too much has happened, too many unresolved issues. There's no such thing as a completely new life with him - he's too well-known from his previous attachments. Heaven knows, there's another old acquaintance round every corner it seems, and every one of them has a story to tell about him.

Had he really made a clean break? After all, it must have been an all-consuming relationship for him to have done all the things he'd done. And there's just this nagging doubt that if his old flame so much as wagged her little finger at him, he'd go running ...

I dunno ... maybe if they were left to work things out; but people keep putting their tuppence-worth in. They won't forgive this or that. They're adamant that it will never work and say he'll make a fool out of everyone. Getting tied up with an old boyo like that ... what would the neighbours say? No, knock it on the head love and look for someone your own age.

Now? Well, with it all over bar the shouting, it looks like Peter - and we - will have to take him back.

Home he'll come, like some errant husband hoofed out by his mistress after a couple of weeks.

Maybe Martin will express some private regret over the fling, say that it didn't count for anything, that this is the most meaningful relationship in his life.

Maybe he'll say that, after all this time, it would be a shame to throw it all away for some flighty bit of stuff that didn't appreciate what she was getting. Perhaps he'll dismiss it all as some menopausal head stagger.

And we'll say no more about it. We'll swallow our pride, look the other way and never mention it again ... for the sake of the kids.

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