Ian McMillan: Solution to the mysteries of wedded bliss

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We’d not been married long and, to be honest, I was still at the stage of looking at my wedding ring and then looking at my wife and thinking, “Blimey! I’m a married man! I’m a responsible citizen!” Then I’d look at the walls of our cosy terraced house and think, “Blimey! I’m a man of property!” I probably then looked at my slippers and thought, “Blimey! I’m turning into my dad!” but I guess we all think that at some time. Married life was still a mystery, though.

It was 1979 and it was a Saturday night. My wife and I would have gone out to the pub but we were skint and so we stayed in and watched a film on a little black and white telly that I remember as being no bigger than a stamp. Normally we went out on a Saturday because we felt that was what married couples did so this was really one of our first Saturday nights in. We’d broken with tradition and been out the night before to our local, and we’d sat there talking about nothing in particular when something odd happened. A man came in selling bacon scissors.

He just walked into the pub and shouted, in a voice that was slightly too loud for the room: “Bacon scissors! Who wants some bacon scissors?” I must admit I was so naïve I didn’t know you needed special scissors to cut bacon, but I was impressed at the number of people who got up and formed a queue around the man and went off clutching a pair of bacon scissors. I felt moved by the group dynamic, as they say in business seminars, and so I got up and bought a pair. My wife came back from the toilet and was aghast. “We don’t need bacon scissors!” she said, so I bought us both some dry salted nuts to defuse any possible blade-related tiff.

To be honest, I felt impressed with myself; I thought this was some kind of rite of passage into married life. I went to the pub, I came back with a useful household object.

The bacon scissor man went out and another man came in. He stood in the place old Bacon Scissors had vacated. It was a bit like a very strange play. He flourished what I at first thought was a glove puppet but then he shouted: “Pit socks! Who wants some pit socks?” This was in the days when there were still plenty of pits to wear socks in and the same thing happened: a queue formed, people bought socks, I felt moved by the group dynamic, I bought some socks, my wife was aghast. She pointed out that I didn’t work down the pit and I said that socks were always useful and we drank up and went home.

And that was why we were in the house on a Saturday night; I’d spent our spare cash on impulse pub-buys. But then a wonderful thing happened. A noisy van spluttered to a halt outside our house and there was the raucous ringing of a handbell and a voice shouting: “Pie and Peas! Get Your Pie and Peas!” It was the Pie and Pea man. The Pie and Pea man we normally missed because we were out at the pub. I got our emergency fiver from behind the clock and bought some pie and peas. We ate them from new bowls. Peas, pies, pitsocks and bacon scissors: ah, married life! Mystery solved!

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