An excerpt from

How to Have an Almost Perfect Marriage

Mrs Stephen Fry

Wedding anniversaries can be difficult occasions. To celebrate one properly can take weeks of preparation and years of being married to someone.

Of course, even the most meticulous preparation can’t guarantee that everything will run smoothly. One tiny thing can still ruin the occasion – generally the husband. Even my own marriage, perfect though it is, has suffered the occasional hiccup.

One year, I decided to give Stephen a big anniversary surprise. I constructed a huge cake, reminiscent of the one we had for our wedding - only this time it would contain me and not a stripper. It was a monumental creation, standing fully six feet high. It took weeks to make, using eight metres of marzipan, twelve bowls of icing, plus a fair bit of cardboard and several steel joists (more than I usually use when baking a cake, at any rate). Despite its great size I managed to conceal it from Stephen by hiding it somewhere I knew he would never look – the kitchen.

Finally, on the day of our anniversary, after sending Stephen to the corner shop for a pint of milk, I wheeled it out into the living room and carefully climbed inside, ready to leap out and surprise him when he returned. As an extra romantic touch I had also put on my wedding dress (which, I’m proud to say, still fits perfectly – partly due to my having been eight months pregnant with Stephen Junior at the time). And so, with all the preparations in place, I crouched down in the dark, breathing as quietly as I could and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

What happened next is best illustrated by an extract from my diary . . .

Wednesday
I woke with a start. I’d been having that dream about being buried alive, only this time it was me, not Stephen, so I was sweating and shaking. I blinked. It was pitch black. Where was I? What was that scratching sound? Had I really been buried alive? My mind did somersaults until at last I remembered. I was sitting in my wedding dress inside a giant cake. Obviously. I must have fallen asleep. What time was it? I twisted my arm awkwardly and pressed the light button on the Thomas the Tank Engine digital watch Stephen bought me for our last anniversary. Three twenty-eight. AM.

I froze. There was that scratching sound again. Only louder this time. And accompanied by some sort of strange humming. Then it stopped. Then there was the sound of something metal falling onto stone. Then swearing. Then the scratching sound again. And finally a key being rammed into the lock and turning. The doorknob rattled for several minutes – I keep telling him to fix that – before finally, heavy feet fell through the door.

‘Surprise.’

Stephen stared blankly at me, standing in a giant cake, jam stains on my face, crumbs down my lace dress and hands on my hips.

After what seemed like an eternity, a broad grin flashed across his face and he held out a half-empty carton of milk.

‘Surprise!’ he replied, before collapsing onto the sofa.
I glared in silence at his giggling, dishevelled form. I suppose it was my fault for giving him my purse. I should have known he would take it straight to the Dog & Duck, and then - judging by the robot dance he was now attempting to recreate – on to that stupid sci-fi-theme nightclub, Outer Space. I sighed. There was no talking to him when he was like this. And so, I resorted to the only language he understands after fifteen Lime and Kiwi Bacardi Breezers . . . Karaoke.

I felt I was a fraud - I was petrified,
Kept thinking I could never eat without you, Stephen Fry.
But then I cooked so many meals
While you were boozing down the pub,
And I grew cross,
And now I couldn’t give a toss.
And so you’re back
From Outer Space,
With your trousers round your ankles and that daft look upon your face.
I shouldn’t have worn this stupid frock,
I should have sat and watched TV,
If I had known for just one second, you’d be back at half past three.
Go on now, go! Walk out the door!
Just turn the knob hard,
‘Cause it’s not working any more.
Weren’t you the one who had the gall to criticise?
Did you eat my crumble?
Did you eat my peach and tuna pie?
No more, not I,
I will serve five!
Oh, as long as I know how to cook,
I know they’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all our kids to feed,
And I’ve got all the Spam I need,
And I’ll serve five,
I will serve five . . . or is it six?

It takes all the strength I have,
Not to stand and rant,
Or stuff this ham and lemon pizza down your underpants.
And I spent oh so many nights,
Just eating dinner by myself.
I used to sob,
Instead of cutting off your . . . privileges.
And you see me?
I’m over here.
I’m not that hat stand in the corner,
You’ve had too much beer.
And so you felt like crawling home
And just expect me to be free.
Now I’m saving all my cooking for someone who’ll eat their tea!
Go on now, go!

And so he went . . .
In the plant pot. And the sink. And the wardrobe. And I went straight to bed, dabbing my streaming mascara with my marzipan-covered veil.

Thursday
I can never stay angry with Stephen for long. No matter what he’s done, somehow he always manages to come up with that romantic gesture that melts my heart and reminds me why I married him all those years ago. This morning, when I slammed the fridge door after replacing the milk for my morning cup of tea, I saw them. Thirteen randomly-coloured magnetic letters, spelling out the words YOU COMPLETE ME. My body flooded immediately with warm, tingling emotion and helplessly, I rushed upstairs to give him a huge kiss. After I’d finished my cup of tea.

Friday
Found two magnetic letter S’s on the kitchen floor. Must have fallen off when I slammed the fridge door. Oh well.