I knew the moment I arrived home that something in my domestic surroundings was not quite right.
When you've cohabited with the opposite sex for many decades, you can automatically sniff when there's an edginess in the air, suggesting you're in the dogbox, for reasons unclear.
Having volunteered to manage the caregiver's retail business over a weekend, I returned after a wearisome Sunday's trading expecting words of sympathy and kindness, perhaps even a well-made drink placed gently in my hand.
Instead, there was a stiffness in the way the caregiver was preparing a special dinner of boned lamb, cooked, I was gratified to note, in my favourite Italian manner, simmered very slowly in white wine, herbs and honey.
"What's wrong with your mother?" I whispered to my 9-year-old as I set the dinner table.
"I dunno," he murmured, shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes heavenwards, adding, "she's been acting weird all day, cleaning and scrubbing everything."
A sure warning sign that something dark is preoccupying the caregiver's thoughts is when she starts sanitising the property with a formidable collection of powerful disinfectants, earning herself the nickname Chemical Ali.
A visit to the toilet confirmed my worst fears: Chemical Ali had been at work with steam cleaners and ammonia-type products that took my breath away.
Protesting is pointless; the caregiver is convinced that only the most powerful chemicals known to man can combat the careless bathroom habits of an elderly man and two young boys.
Following an excellent dinner, I tried to recover a few brownie points by cleaning up the kitchen and taking care of the dishes, but to no avail.
Somehow, the stiff formality of the evening appeared to have set like concrete.
Long experience has taught me that when a woman presents unfathomable social behaviour, the best thing to do is to gracefully retreat by going to bed, and trust that all will be well again the next day.
I was just drifting off to sleep when the caregiver shook me awake again, handing me an envelope. "What's this?" I asked nervously, wondering if it might be divorce papers.
"Open it now!" she commanded. It was a red heart-shaped card, with the message, "Happy 15th wedding anniversary! Darling."
One thing you have to say about women - they know how to stick the knife in, right up to the hilt, when you've forgotten something important.