Had a call this morning from my ex mother-in-law demanding that I return ex-granny-in-law’s bone-handled steak knives. Is it so wrong to assume that in divorcing the husband one gets a clean break from the in-laws? No, it would appear that this is one vow that truly has a life sentence.

Throughout our marriage, I must confess to never having been very good at handling the MIL. I like to think my reluctance to directly confront her had to do with preserving the delicate familial status quo, but in truth, I think I was just damned scared of the woman’s ferocious bark and even more viscous bite. So, as all self-respecting cowards do, I sent my husband into battle on my behalf.

I suppose warning bells should have rung when, at the wedding, when she insisted that my sisters and I stand to the side so that she could have photos taken of “her” family. Even then, I kept my mouth shout despite feeling the blood boiling in my head.

But perhaps the supreme example of my spinelessness was the occasion when, just married and still cash-strapped, James and I decided to invest what little precious money we had in a new rug for our new home. We researched all there is to know about carpeting – short nap versus shaggy pile, sisal versus wool – and were thrilled with our new acquisition when finally we brought it home. Of course, we’d mentioned our incursion into the world of carpeting to the MIL and probably shouldn’t have been surprised when, a week later, she arrived dragging a heavy suitcase stuffed full of…. You guessed it!… an old Oriental (carpet, that is). I was floored – no pun intended – when she proceeded to roll up our precious kilim in order to install her rather more ostentatious replacement. Needless to say, after speedy out-of-earshot consultation with my better half, that suitcase – and its lurid contents – when straight back from whence they’d come. Don’t ask me what James said to his mother – no doubt it was diplomatically done, but the MIL still shot me a murderous look on her way out and referred to me as “What’s-her-name” for a good few months thereafter.

But, this morning, instead of my habitual tongue biting, I let the old bat have it. I told her in no uncertain terms that as far as I was concerned said steak knives were now an item of communal property, as, I added – just for good measure – was the offending rug. See you in court!