This is a story from Martha P.


For approximately half of the people who might read this the word taupe will mean little.  Let me explain:  it describes a soft skin tone shade somewhere between stone and beige, and is pronounced to rhyme with rope.  After many years of experiment with make-up, like most ladies I have found the one and only brand that agrees with my skin, and the exact shade of foundation cream – taupe – to compliment my complexion.  Naturally these products are very expensive as they are exclusive to Harrods, and I send for them by mail order every six months or so.  As you might imagine, it isn’t something I discuss with my husband over the breakfast or any other table, for one thing his eyes would glaze over, and for another he might ask about the price.  His own sense of colour co-ordination only goes as far as wearing black shoes with a grey suit, but I like to think he appreciates the care I take with my appearance in a general sort of way, even though we’re both getting on a bit. I also hope he’s proud of our elegant house and garden, never mind that he plays little part in its maintenance.

The little incident which gave me so much amusement and satisfaction happened last summer, on a beautiful Saturday morning when I was washing up and my husband was standing outside, probably wondering whether to get a deck chair out of the garage or just to save energy and read the paper sitting on the garden bench.  I was hoping he might notice the roses I’d chosen for the bed outside our sitting room which were just coming into bloom and picked up the exact shade of the curtains.  Our separate thoughts were interrupted by the crunch of the postman’s bicycle wheels as he swung at high speed into our drive, slewing to a halt with gravel flying in all directions.  To my annoyance he did this every day, leaving a rut several feet long for me to repair, but he was such a cheerful and reliable chap one could hardly complain. We’d nicknamed him Speedy Gonzales.

Speedy reached into his bag and pulled out the beautifully packed Harrods parcel I’d been expecting, and read out the label on the back.

“’Ere you are, gov, it’s a “toupee” for you.”  His grin stretched from ear to ear.  My husband took it, looked at the printed word “taupe” without recognition, turned it over to see the address and replied “No, it’s for my wife.”

Speedy’s face was a picture; it went from salmon pink to beetroot red when he realized his faux pas. He wrenched his bike round and was down the drive and out into the road at record speed even for him, leaving behind another rut in the gravel, of course.

My husband turned towards me looking thoughtful and then worried.  “Why have you bought a wig, dear?  You don’t need one of those, you’ve got lovely hair.  I’ve always loved your hair.  It’s beautiful hair.”

Well, it had once been long and silky, probably my best feature, but I’d worn it short and practical for years now, a thick buoyant shock of mostly grey.  Did he really still see it as beautiful?  Did the man who failed to notice that the roses matched the curtains or that the furniture was lovingly polished every day also fail to notice the ravages of time on his wife’s appearance?  I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t know the word taupe, not many men would, but I was hard put to stop my amusement showing.  Instead I leant out of the window, took his face in my hands and gave him a quick kiss on his increasingly bald spot.

“Thank you dear, but you’ve no need to worry on that score.  Now, will you rake over the drive today or shall I?”

© Martha P. 2017


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