Amusement and surprise are the same thing. What is a joke but a story that takes an unexpected turn? So, when she laughed the first time I asked her to marry me (at the fish and chip shop, on our first date, ten years ago) that was just because she was surprised. But, crucially, she did laugh. It was a surprise, but it wasn't an unpleasant surprise. And, since then, I've asked her so many times that it's become a kind of running joke. But that isn't the sort of joke that it is - it's actually a shaggy dog story. It's a long, long story that gets funnier the longer it goes on. The sort of joke that gets you laughing even before the punchline arrives. She's known for a long time, and I've known for quite a short time - a deliciously short time - that she is going to say "Yes". We are both just enjoying the lead-in to the punchline. This evening I have hired a violinist to serenade us at the fish and chip shop and I am going to get down on one knee and ask her whether she wants haddock or cod. And, later, while we are putting out the recycling, I am going to ask her to marry me and, when she says "yes", we will both laugh at the surprise of it all.

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