Fifteen years ago, when I was The Spectator’s drama critic, Caroline used to complain that she had become a ‘theatre widow’. I was spending at least three nights a week in the West End while she was cooped up at home. Occasionally, I was able to persuade her to come with me, but most of the time she just made a face: ‘I’d love to accompany you to the musical version of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, but unfortunately I have an unbreakable appointment with the sofa and the TV set.’
Well, she has her revenge. Caroline is captain of the Park Club Ladies Second Team and if she hasn’t got a match or a tournament, she’s doing ‘drills’ or playing in the ‘social’. I’m lucky if I only have to spend three evenings a week on my own. During peak season it has been known to go as high as five, and at the weekends I don’t see her for dust. I’m now a ‘tennis widower’.
There are upsides. For one thing, she’s as fit as a butcher’s dog. If we ever get mugged in the evening, which is unlikely because we’re never together, at least I won’t have to worry about running away and leaving her in the lurch. She will be able to lay them out cold with her Federer-like right arm. Then there’s the dazzling array of cute outfits. I’m a sucker for a pretty girl in a tennis skirt and my heart always soars when Caroline comes bouncing through the front door swinging her racket, even if it is after midnight. There’s also the fact she’s got our three sons playing tennis. Nine-year-old Charlie is already better than me (admittedly a low bar). He has even torn himself away from the Xbox to look at Wimbledon — and in my household, watching sport on TV is a wholesome, grown-up thing to do compared with the alternatives.