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Her cold shoulder masks a complex tale of headlines and ball games.

Byline: By Steve Groves

I've noticed a certain wariness in the lively eyes of the current Mrs Groves when my keys jangle in the lock and I greet the evening with a cheerful, "Honey, I'm home." There's something about her body language; a reluctance to meet my gaze; the way she zips herself into a sleeping bag the moment I show my face. I thought it might have been something I said over breakfast, when I observed that if black pudding was meant to be so hard we'd have a hod and trowel as cutlery.

But that had washed over her head. What had got under her skin was a headline in one of the popular newspapers. "Have it away nights follow good day at the office." Or something like that.

Beneath, it was revealed that workers are twice as likely to indulge in horizontal gymnastics of a frankly sexual nature with their partners if they've a tidy day at work.

I put her mind at rest. The real point of the research, I said, was to show that people having a decent time at work were happier all round. And the study - funded by a recruitment agency - would encourage people to change to a happier job and therefore use the services of a good recruitment agency.

The current Mrs G is a sucker for the results of these studies. But who can deny that they tell us so much about the social state of our nation. What have we learned in the last seven days?

More than 80% of women do not exercise enough. More and more families are sitting down to different meals to satisfy "fussy eaters". Computer workers, financiers and lawyers are the worst for using jargon. Football fans miss goals at matches because they go for a smoke or visit the lavatory.

See what I mean. This is vital stuff and none of this would have been apparent if these surveys hadn't been carried out, nor would we have known that any of this is important.

Take that last bit. It is evidently not a well-known fact that when a football game is in a goalless state, the quickest way to ensure someone breaks the deadlock is to send your neighbour to the bathroom.

Of course there is some really useful research. Last week this very journal warned us to be aware of the dangers of "karnal bunt" - one of a series of diseases we risk getting in Britain because of climate change, globalisation of trade and travel, and the evolution of germs.

Karnal bunt is a disease of cereals, but seeing that in a headline is the sort of thing that would send shivers down the spine of the current Mrs Groves.

I only hope that research is more accurate than some of the stuff which gets into newspapers.

Last week I was told that sex is Britain's second most popular form of exercise. Walking is more popular, so the current Mrs G has dug out my waterproof trousers. Not in the way you're thinking.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 19, 2007
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