Dressed for tea.

Doing her mind reading act. Can all wives do this, or what?

Don't try this at home -- she almost burned our place down this way.

Getting ready to be slammed through the ground.

She also makes a versatile and decorative wall prop.

As you might have guessed if you were so incautious as to view other pages in this gallery, I have been lucky enough to have not only a wedding and a bonus honeymoon but also a lovely wife to accompany me in these life events, thrown in for an extra charge that seemed so modest to begin with.

Kathleen was born in the U.S. but lived in Nigeria for several years as a young girl while her father, a geographer at Penn State, was on sabbatical at the University of Ibaden. Nigeria was politically restless at the time; hearing the family stories of that time period one gets the feeling that there were scattered coups in the afternoon, turning to steady riots by night with an increasing chance of revolution towards morning. Presumably this provided some distraction from the bouts of malaria (I think Kathleen secretly enjoys checking off the "Have had malaria" box on blood-donation forms) and the fact that their house was on the annual migration path of the green mamba, an unpleasantly poisonous snake. Those wacky Nigerian real estate agents! Imagine forgetting to mention something like that! I hope the revolution got them!

On trips back and forth to the U.S. they often visited family in Britain -- her father was born and raised near Harlech, in Wales. This is immediately evident when Kathleen, like all British people, starts talking about -- can you guess? No, it's not about the "boot" of a car, or about wanting "spotted dick" for dessert. About making tea. We are talking serious art form here. Kathleen laughs at American tea and the way it's made, and it's not one of those dainty little ladylike laughs, either. It's one of those cold, sneering, bitter laughs. She has her tea flown in from Canada, a convenient 1,200 miles away, all vacuum-packed by variety into elaborate boxes with names like "Manchester Crematorium" or "Prince Charles Cumuppance". I look at the freight cargo bill for these drop shipments and laugh too, one of those hollow, dispirited laughs.

Besides tea and instructing waitpersons on how to make it, books are a big part of Kathleen's life. Her first word was "book" (at the age of 8 months), and her cousin tells us how amazed she was when Kathleen was reading the London Times by age two (although I must point out that she rarely finished the Sunday crossword). Her mother complains that Kathleen read too much, and what was the point of taking a child to see the pyramids if all she did was lounge on her camel, reading? This preoccupation with books could sometimes become downright hazardous, as on one memorable occasion when she set fire to her book while reading it as she stirred a pot on a gas stove. With characteristic quick thinking, she slapped the book on the counter until it was extinguished, shrugged calmly at me as if to say "books -- gas stove -- open fire; what can you do?" and went back to reading.

From her youth Kathleen was fascinated by languages. She wanted to speak Yoruba in Nigeria, but it was forbidden because all the adults wanted their children to speak English. She said something in Yoruban once anyway, and was beaten for it. One assumes that what she said was "pass the tea."

Nowadays, besides working faithful 60 hour weeks for her current employer, we do West Coast swing together, and additionally Kathleen is totally into Aikido. She says there's no thrill quite like taking some big, six-foot-plus marine and "slamming him through the mat." Um, right. Good thing she gets these aggressions out in class. She also likes the weapons work -- sword, staff, and knife. Just as well, considering the rowdy places she hangs out. You never know when a knife fight will break out at the "Ticky Boo Tea Shoppe".

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