SHE was sitting next to me on the sofa, smelling all fresh from the bath and wearing her dressing gown and a wanton look.

"Gorgonzola cheese and apple strudel with spiced pickled pears," said my wife, softly.

"Sorry?" I said, trying to keep one eye on the footy.

"Gorgonzola cheese and apple strudel with spiced pickled pears," she repeated.

"Oh," I said, dipping in to my bag of cheese and onion crisps.

"Wild mushrooms in madeira en croute with foaming hollandaise," she added, raising an eyebrow in a seductive kind of way.

"I'm trying to watch Arsenal," I protested.

"Purple sprouting broccoli with chilli, lime and sesame dressing," she purred, poking her tongue out slightly and sucking it in slowly with a slurping kind of noise which climaxed with a "Yum, yum."

"What are you on about?" I asked.

She lifted up the book from her lap: Delia's Vegetarian Collection - a Christmas present from her sister.

And then she was off again: "Oven-roasted ratatouille and mozzarella strudel with parmesan and pecans... Stuffed yellow peppers with pilau rice, currants and toasted pine nuts," she cooed, crossing her legs, licking her lips and making that yum yum slurping noise again.

She picked up the pace: "Marinated halloumi cheese and fresh Mexican tomato salsa... Mashed black-eyed beancakes with ginger onion marmalade."

It suddenly struck me that this was how she used to talk to me when we were young and childless, in the days when sex was a regular feast rather than the occasional quick snack.

"Silken tofu with chilli, spring onion and frizzled leak... Souffled butternut creams with foaming herb butter sauce." She was really starting to get excited now, salivating even. Delia's not just a cook, I thought to myself, she's a femme fatale - a wicked woman.

"Spiced apple muffin cake with pecan streusel topping...Compote of fresh figs in muscat wine with vanilla custard... Plum and almond buttermilk cobbler." She was speaking noticeably louder than when she'd first uttered the words 'gorgonzola cheese' and I honestly thought she was about to explode.

It was when she leant across and whispered breathlessly "Roasted tomatoes and goats' cheese tart with thyme" - with a definite emphasis on the "tart with thyme" - that I thought I'd give the rest of the footy a miss.

She got up, walked out of the lounge and, naturally, I followed, with thoughts of purple sprouting broccoli and buttermilk cobblers filling my head. I was starting to imagine all kinds of appropriate dressings, but instead of taking the stairs to the bedroom, she turned right into the kitchen.

"It's really got me in the mood - I've got to make something," she said, putting on her apron. "Do you want to help?"

At that moment, the little 'un, aged five, appeared at the kitchen door: "I'm hungry, Mummy - can I have a tomato sauce sandwich?"

As he finished asking, he poked his tongue out slightly, sucked it in slowly and made a familiar slurping noise. What on earth would Delia have thought?

I went back to the footy and what was left of my bag of crisps.


THERE are some faces you never forget.

And when the Dad At Large Roadshow reached the lecture theatre at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for a meeting of the South Tees National Health Retirement Association last week, there was one member of the audience who definitely looked familiar.

It turned out to be none other than "Nitty Nora, The Head Explorer" from distant days at St Peter's Junior School in nearby South Bank.

Otherwise known as Kath Gibson, she was the one who had the job of searching through our hair for nits and checking our feet for nasties.

"Please God, don't let her find anything," we used to pray silently, fearing the public humiliation of a nit infestation or the discovery of a dreaded verruca which would mean we couldn't go swimming at Normanby Road baths and would have to stand on the side like social outcasts.

There's a lot of water gone under the diving board since then but it was lovely to say hello again. I was tempted to ask if she fancied having a rummage through my hair but, 30 years on, there are increasingly fewer places for a nit to hide...


MARION Bettinson recalled a family outing to High Force in Teesdale when the river was in full flood, the falls were all brown and frothy, and her four-year-old son Christopher shouted: "Cor, look at all that beer."

JILL March was a bit too fussy with her food as a child.

One day her mum told her: "What you need is a good dose of starvation."

"Well, if it's not nice, I won't eat it," replied Jill. (As remembered by her cousin, Ann Fox, former medical secretary at Middlesbrough General Hospital.)

JOAN Wilkinson was in the checkout queue at the Aldi store in Middlesbrough just before Christmas and a young mum was standing in front with her little boy.

"I'm not eating any of that," said the boy. "I don't like lion meat."

It turned out to be a pack of pork loin.

P.S. In the last column, my New Year's Thought suggested that the world would be a much better place if all world leaders were grandmas. Alan Tinkler, of Eaglescliffe, writes with a fair point: "Have you forgotten one Margaret Hilda Thatcher?"

* Don't forget there's the chance to win the last ever copy of the first Dad

At Large book by sending in your Things They Say to: Dad At Large Competition, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington, County Durham DL1 1NF.

Published: 16/01/2003