I knew instantly that you were furious. Hunched, seething, in your chair, your vibrations were chunked with rage, clear as clear.

Upon discovering that the signed-on-the-back photo had been smudged, you snarled and muttered imprecations.

Heart in mouth, fear already surging, I tried to think what I had done wrong this time. Was it the fact that I went to get the photo sorted without asking your permission, asking if it was all right to do this?

Just in case, I explained that I had dropped a friend of our elder daughter’s off at her house (having loaned her my little gas heater because they have no heat in the house and she has been unwell) and popped in on my passport application errand on the way back.

I asked if there had been friction between you and one of the children, if you were tired (for it had been a stressful day, and your usual routine had been interrupted); you growled angry negatives.

I was, I confess, concerned about you driving in such a mood, having seen, two years ago, the damage caused by this kind of fury, unwillingness to back down and refusal to ask for help: That previous instance cost us £800 in repairs to the car, but at least no one was harmed.

I tried to suggest that you take the two girls to ballet, and I collect them on my way to choral rehearsal; you wouldn’t hear of it.

The atmosphere thickened upon your return, became more poisonous.

‘I’ll assert myself here,’ I thought,’ and just say that I’ll do the pick-up…’

You erupted in vituperative and incandescent rage, showering me with accusations.

I was, you told me, trying to thrust myself into plans YOU had already made; I was trying to take over; I was being bossy and controlling, as usual – and, NO, I was NOT going to collect the girls; YOU were, and I needed to BUTT OUT.

Your face (which I once thought so handsome) was set in the now all-too-familiar pursed-mouth, mean and threatening stance.

The thought of you driving became ever-more frightening because, in this mood, you have been known to scrape a neighbour’s car, knock wing mirrors off deliberately when walking down the road (because you don’t approve of them being left out) and, on the day we drove to Marlborough, force me to leap into the verge to avoid being hit by the front of your car.

I ran out, terrified, and tried to hold the door of the car open, to stop you going.

‘Please,  Gary,’ I begged, ‘can we just discuss this…’


And, when I wouldn’t, you turned the key in the ignition – and would, I know, have driven off, even if I had been injured in the process.

I should, I am sure, have just let you drive away – but I was afraid of your unacknowledged capacity for damage and violence when this riled-up.

We tussled over the keys. You scratched and bruised me.

I had to let go in the end, had to retreat. I tried to suggest that we should drive together and discuss it calmly.

‘No,’ you said, ‘I don’t want you in the car. You are NOT coming with me. You have made a scene in the street and you have got bare feet. Get back into the house.’

You were far more concerned about the potential embarrassment caused by my bare feet and the neighbours watching than you were about the bruise on my forearm, the scratches on finger and back of hand, the shaking which I was unable to control.

You drove off – and, as I discovered later, told the girls that we had argued, just in case, as you put it, ‘we got back and found you waiting behind the door with the rolling pin or worse…’

Once you had gone, I gave way to tears and, feeling an absolute need to escape, drove round to local friends.

The next bit is mostly a blank, though I know that they were kind and caring, the way they always are.

But what was dawning ever clearer in my mind was the recognition of a pattern which goes back years, if not decades – and that is your absolute need for things to go the way you have decided they will, and your need to intimidate, bully and punish me if I question your dictats, do things without asking you first or go against rules which shift like the sand.