My husband studied science: biology and chemistry, to be more precise. I studied languages - German and Italian, if you really must know. If you're curious about which sin will land you on the fourth terrace of Dante's Purgatory, I'm your woman (and it's sloth, by the way - one of my favourites.) If you're looking for information about the general workings of the world, you'd be well-advised to choose my husband as your Phone A Friend if you ever end up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
See, I have a marvellous ability to simply accept the world as it is. I'm not propelled by the kind of curiosity that discovers radium or the South Pole. I don't look at stuff and wonder why it is the way it is - I just accept that it's that way. My husband is different: he wants to know Why. Why? WHY? And he rounds on me, his face perplexed, and demands an answer:
"Why is the cheese mouldy already? Why?"
"How do pigeons recognise faces? How?" (he's temporarily obsessed by pigeons. One hopes it will pass.)
I should know by now that these are purely rhetorical questions: my husband tends to verbalise many of the thoughts I would keep quiet. He prefers to put them in the form of accusing questions. This is something he's inherited from his mother - dinner at their house can be very stressful for someone like me, who feels compelled to answer any question put to her, regardless of whether they are real questions or just general wonderings.
Sadly, as I say, my scientific knowledge is nowhere near good enough to satisfy my husband's craving for answers. Last week we made a curry (actually, I made a curry - I was just being diplomatic) and split it between two pots for convenience (because we were dining on the upstairs patio and I didn't want to schlep our cast-iron wok up the stairs. There's name-dropping and then there's outdoor-dining-dropping. This was the latter.) The following day, the curry in the saucepan had gone off, but the curry in the wok was still edible. After a brief struggle in which I wrestled the saucepan out of my husband's hands while he whined that it was still okay to eat (he views rancidity as a personal challenge: "I bet you I could still eat that!"), he turned his big blue peepers on me and demanded to know why it had gone off.
"Why has it gone off?" he said. "Why?"
"Maybe because the metal in the wok is thicker and it kept the curry cooler," I suggested.
"My darling," he said, "Bear in mind that I love you. But sometimes your scientific theories sound like they've come from a children's book."
Readers, I was stunned. Then I laughed till I almost threw up. Sadly, he's right - my scientific theories sound like they've come from a children's book: The Lunatic's Guide to the Universe or The Crazed Child's Compendium of Science. His observation is a long time coming - I almost pushed him over the edge when, in answer to his demanding question about how they'd filmed the zero gravity scene in the film Inception ("How did they do that? How?"), I naively suggested that they might just have pumped the gravity out. A look of horror crossed his visage, swiftly followed by pity, then he turned away to laugh into his coffee cup. I thought it was a jolly good theory myself.
Anyway, as I always tell him, it's a good job I'm pretty. And then I whip out a copy of Goethe's Collected Works and seek revenge by trying to lure him into a conversation about Sturm und Drang to defend my honour.
To no avail.
He's usually long gone.