Thirty-five years ago, Margaret answered my promises by pledging to stand by me through thick and thin, for better or worse, richer or poorer, as long as we both should live. In the intervening years I’ve gone from thin to thick and, awkwardly, have never quite been able to offer her a glimpse of what ‘richer’ would be like, but I think it’s fair to say that I’m a better man now than I was when we married (and I’m sure I’m a better man than when we met). We have spent altogether too much time apart, and have not yet ridden through Paris in a sports car, with a warm wind in her hair (though we have in a coach with forty choristers); but if God grants me another few years, perhaps we can arrange even that. Even if not, mark me down as a man blessed beyond measure by the love and companionship of a beautiful, wise, generous, constant spouse.
Kara Slade likes to refer to us as ‘the George Burns and Gracie Allen of theology’, an appellation that tickles me no end — my father and I were ardent George Burns fans (George Burns Classic, as you might say, the vaudeville and radio/TV Burns, before his late-career emergence in Oh God and other such profitable ventures). I especially love it ’cos Gracie Allen was herself a brilliant practitioner of comedy, very far from being a sidekick; I’d be flattered to be compared to George or Gracie, and (whichever role you assign me) always happy to step aside so that Margaret has more room to shine. I’m unbearably proud to be her husband, in the way George Burns manifests throughout his (ghost-written) autobiography that he’s besotted with and proud of Gracie.