If you're still labouring under the illusion that men and women are compatible, try taking your partner on a walking holiday to the Lake District in the North of England. Recently, after a domestic spat, Mr T and I decided to reconcile our differences by spending time in the hills. It wasn't a great idea. Our relationship couldn't have been put under greater strain if we'd gone on a cruise and I'd caught him pleasuring the captain.
Men and women should never go on holiday together. Women enjoy kittens and handbags and reading about sex, while men like superglue, fixing bikes and the sex itself - often in front of the mirror and, weirdly, while slapping your arse. That we are becoming increasingly incompatible is a fairly recent discovery for Mr T and me. For years, the overriding interest that we shared in protecting our children from nits, bullies and the wheels of the number 73 bus led us to believe we had something in common, but since the kids have gone off to university there is little left to share.
In retrospect, I should have guessed that hill walking would bring our differences to the fore. There's nothing like the great outdoors for separating the sheep from the rams. At first, things seemed OK. The route over the hills to Grasmere began relatively easily. We threaded our way from cairn to cairn but when the stones - and our map - ran out, we separated back into our XY and XX constituent parts.
I wanted to ask another walker for help. My husband reacted as if I'd suggested asking the bloke next door for tips to improve his foreplay. I had forgotten that in the gladiatorial world of men, hypothermia is better than admitting you are lost. Eventually, after several manly rotations of the map, he regained his bearings, and half an hour later we descended into Grasmere.
Here, our differences erupted again. This time over food. He wanted to sit in a pie shop and have a huge, knuckled pasty, whereas I wanted to visit a tea room. Eventually he gave way and we went to Heidi's. The tables looked as if they had been set for a picnic and the counter was decorated with miniature milking pails full of home-made fudge. The walls were plastered with homilies such as "One good cup deserves another" and (my personal favourite) a picture of two cows surrounded by the words "As soon as I wake up, every night, every day, I know that it's moo I need to take the blues away". Even the toilets did not disappoint: they had cupcake wallpaper and moisturising handwash.
My husband looked as uncomfortable as I've ever seen him. "This is like sitting in a giant vulva," he exclaimed loudly, causing me to choke on my sticky toffee pudding and the waitress to seek refuge behind a nearby display of gingham-topped jam. Where I might quietly whisper the occasional opinion, he thinks nothing of opening his big mouth and blurting out whatever he likes. This is yet another of our differences.
That evening we decided to stay in and spend some time on the new hobbies we've taken up to replace our obsolete parenting roles. I knitted 24 rows of a scarf; he got out his nunchaku and decapitated invisible yakuza while pretending to be Bruce Lee.
I give the marriage six months.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a teacher in the North of England. @AnnethropeMs.