Aye, dear reader, I'm back off my honeymoon and not before time, I have to say.
Don't get me wrong, you can't beat a Caribbean cruise, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching my new bride some old tricks, but 3 weeks is enough and I'm pleased to back in ol' Blighty, cursed weather and all..
Do you know, despite being sorely tempted, I didn't stray once during the entire voyage? Oh, I had ample chance of course; a man of my looks and bearing always turns plenty of heads - the bulging trousers help too, I expect. There was one particular coffee coloured Amazon, six feet two if she was an inch, with the biggest poonts I ever saw, always making sure I got a good glimpse of the upholstery at the punchbowl, who made it plain she liked the look of ol' Flashy, striking up conversation and flashing her assets at every opportunity. But I resisted, gentle reader. Do you suppose I've changed?
Not a bit of it. The present Mrs. Flashman must find rum an aphrodisiac, or perhaps the ocean air set her off - she barely let me out of the saddle for the entire 3 weeks. So even if our Amazonian goddess had flung herself at me, teeth and nails set to stun, it would have been a 'No thank'ee kindly, ma'am. None today please' from yours truly. Aye, 'tis a pale ghost named Flashy that returned ashore yesterday afternoon, no error.
No, I ain't changed, just biding my time. A fresh mount will present itself before you know it, don't they always? And I'll be aboard digging my heels in the stirrups and riding her sure footedly over the sticks edging her round the final bend, reins tight, whip aloft at the ready, always keeping enough left for a flat-out sprint down the final furlong and taking the photo finish by a good length as usual.
And before you all lambaste me for destroying the precious sanctity of marriage, or some such rot - consider this: I've half a notion the present Mrs. Flashman is a woman after my own heart.
One evening, returning early from the ship's casino after a poor turn-out on the Black Jack table (one old dear kept shouting 'Snap!' for heaven's sake!) I caught her in a state of undress, by gad, just as the captain was leaving our quarters. Tales of invitations for the newlyweds to his table for dinner and feeble excuses for intruding on her bath won't wash with this old campaigner - I could see the looks in both their eyes - a look I've made myself more times than I care to remember. The startled child caught with his hand in the biscuit barrel look, or the Alsatian staring back po-faced like it's you that's shat all over the Axminster (mind you, I've a notion it might have been that Christmas. Ain't touched sherry since). I know 'guilty as charged' when I see it.
Paying me back in my own coin, don't you see? I was fit to burst and set to turf her overboard, until she flaunted her wares and flashed those butter-wouldn't-melt eyes at me - so I channelled my rage by rogering her senseless from Havana to Cancun, which must have set some kind of record, I reckon.
So you see, that's the secret of a successful marriage, if I'm any judge - variety. There may be a ring on my finger - but so long as there's no padlock on my britches, it's open season and 'up for the cup', as far as I'm concerned.
But what are your tips for a happy marriage?
FLASHMAN STRIKES AGAIN!
Paul Rodgers is not the best thing since fried Fred.