‘My husband is no brute’: Vine on Gove

So what happens to Michael Gove, now that he’s been defeated in the Conservative leadership election and lost his cabinet job? Well, presumably he gets to spend more time with his family. And happily we know something about that, because his wife, Sarah Vine, has so assiduously documented their home-life over the years in her newspaper columns.

It is possible, however, that you may have missed the odd piece along the way, so here’s a quick round-up of some of the highlights, building into an intimate portrait of Gove by Vine.

On their meeting: ‘When I met my husband, he was reading Milton in a herbal bath.’ [1]

On what he wears to bed: ‘My future spouse maintained an admirable high standard of pyjama-wearing … he would appear in full Turnbull & Asser cotton piped. There was even, I seem to remember, a matching dressing gown.’ [2]

On decorating the family home: ‘He, it appears, favours a High Victorian look, complete with tartan wallpaper, boars’ heads and stuffed stoats mounted in boxing poses.’ [3]

On personal grooming: ‘My husband is no brute. He understands the difference between carbolic soap and REN shower gel. He owns a moisturiser, and uses it. He had a facial once.’ [4]

On anti-spot cream: ‘I had no idea my husband even knew about Dr Sebagh, let alone carried one of his products around in his washbag.’ [5]

At a health spa: ‘[he] made himself at home by unfurling his copy of The Economist and repairing, man-style, to the bathroom.’ [6]

On another trip to a spa: ‘I quite enjoyed the foot-cleansing ritual thing, whereas I think my husband found it a little uncomfortable which, in turn, made me feel awkward.’ [7]

On shampoo: ‘I left some [Jasmine High Gloss] in the shower and my husband, who generally just bungs on whatever comes to hand, was so impressed he went out and bought some of his own. As well as jasmine it contains jojoba, nettles and arnica.’ [8]

Out shopping: ‘[He tried on] a pair of racy harlequin swimming trunks’. [9]

On clothes: ‘My husband, a thrifty Scot, loves nothing more than a pair of dead man’s trousers, preferably set off by a nice pair of worn shoes and a slightly stained tie.’ [10]

On his voice: ‘Most of the time, my husband’s accent is perfectly comprehensible; except, that is, when angry or on the phone to his mother. Then, he slips into a native dialect so strange and impenetrable it makes your average Glaswegian accent sound positively Home Counties.’ [11]

On Christmas: ‘My husband may not be much of a wrapper, but he’s a brilliant shopper.’ [12]

On dieting: ‘Do you enjoy a routine? Are you generally meticulous and thorough in your affairs? My husband is all of these things – which is why, when he decides he’s getting a bit on the chubby side, he goes on the Atkins diet. I watch in amazement as, iron-willed, he forces down endless eggs and eschews all root vegetables. Never once does he fall off the wagon. He just doggedly does as he’s told until he reaches his target weight.’ [13]

On relaxing at home: ‘I was lying in the bath with my husband…’ [14]

What he enjoys most: ‘sitting on the sofa eating luxury nuts and reading a large, impenetrable tome.’ [15]

On his hobbies: ‘his only form of regular exercise consists of lugging bagfuls of hardbacks home from Daunt’s, or surfing the AbeBooks website for rare books.’ [16]

On women’s footwear: ‘When I told my husband flat shoes were fashionable again, his eyes widened. “But they’re terrible,” he said. “Especially pumps. They make women look like overgrown schoolgirls.”’ [17]

On driving: ‘My husband is the worst driver in England, possibly the Western world. It took him seven attempts to pass his test.’ [18]

On parenting: ‘If my husband were in charge, however, he’d buy all the fluorescent, overpriced Nikes we could afford, and the kids would be allowed to play Xbox until their heads exploded. Afterwards they’d watch The Smurfs on iPad while what remained of their brains dribbled out of their ears, not a wooden toy or Milly-Molly-Mandy boxed set in sight.’ [19]

On his image: ‘What do Ronnie Barker, Austin Powers, Deirdre Barlow and SpongeBob SquarePants have in common? They all, apparently, look like my husband in his spectacles.’ [20]

On meeting rock stars: ‘A few years earlier, after his own university career had ended, my husband had been invited back to speak at the Oxford Union. In the loo before the debate, he found himself standing next to his opponent: [Mick] Jagger. For some bizarre reason this encounter inspired him to pepper his arguments with a series of double-entendre jokes about the underwhelming size of Jagger’s equipment.’ [21]

On becoming middle-aged: ‘Instead of his usual glass of red wine, he was consuming a clear liquid containing ice and a slice of lemon. “Is that a gin and tonic?” I asked. “So what if it is?” he replied, testily. Golf, G&Ts – what next, a V12 Jag with pale leather seats and a walnut dashboard?’ [22]


[1] Times 6 March 2010

[2] Times 19 February 2008

[3] Times 26 April 2002

[4] Times 9 October 2004

[5] Times 11 April 2009

[6] Times 17 May 2002

[7] Times 11 February 2006

[8] Times 20 May 2006

[9] Times 30 August 2003

[10] Times 15 June 2011

[11] Times 23 May 2012

[12] Times 23 December 2006

[13] Times 27 December 2008

[14] Times 8 January 2008

[15] Times 18 October 2008

[16] Times 11 September 2011

[17] Times 20 March 2010

[18] Times 2 March 2011

[19] Times 14 December 2011

[20] Times 10 October 2012

[21] Times 1 May 2013

[22] Times 19 June 2013

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