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Guard your nest from praying cuckoos

The cuckoo used to have feathers, but that species is rare now. A lot of 21st century cuckoos are mammals. Homo sapiens to be even more exact.

Cuckold is derived from the old French for cuckoo. It refers to a man whose wife has been unfaithful. The female version, cuckquean, refers to the woman who is the last to know. Both words made their way into English in the Middle Ages, but the practice didn't need a name previous to this. Everyone knew about it, but the husband and wife being cheated on.

Now that cuckoos are an endangered species, the definition needs extending. I'm not talking about people who merely steal the partners of other people. We can pass the term onto ego maniacs for whom taking another man's wife or husband isn't enough. They want their nest, their nest eggs and, if they can get it, they'd probably take their name too.

The 21st century cuckoo thinks they're entitled, not only to someone else's husband or wife, but their house and holdings. Impossible, you might think. But it happens.

Anyone remember Rebecca de Mornay in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle? The psycho nanny who wanted everything her employer had? Well, you don't have to be psycho it seems to want everything a woman has, and more. My good friend was kind enough to take her friend into her home and business, when her own company made her redundant.

Rows

"My husband wasn't at all sure about it, at first. He felt it would disturb family life. We had loads of rows before she moved in. But when he met her, he's such a good guy, he decided if she gave us a hand it would be an opportunity for us to see more of each other and for her to get back on her feet again. The idea was she would handle the administration for me and then babysit for us with our girls."

Within six months the rows had switched from being about the woman moving in, to being about the woman. "My husband thought I was too hard on her. Whenever I went to do something in my own home, she was there before me. At first I was grateful, because I was so tired. But then, when I saw that my daughters were running to her instead of me, and everything I thought of doing she was there before me, I decided something was wrong. Everyone thought I was paranoid when I said that I thought she wanted the roof I put over her head."

My friend is a very quiet person, and this saved her. If it had been me, the woman would have been outside my front door with packed bags. But she hung back, and even went along with the usurper's charade. They went out for a coffee together and the cuckoo got a call. She took it, smiled and chatted and something about the conversation made my friend swing into action.

"Who was that?"

Oh, it was her husband. Sorry, but did she want to speak to him? He was calling about something every day.

"Something that made you laugh?" My friend enquired.

The cuckoo got flustered, then realised she'd tried to shove the mammy out of the nest too quickly.

It took everything my friend had to get through that marriage crisis. There was no affair, but the lawns had already been mowed for the croquet.

"I know you hear stories of au pairs. But this was a friend. She put me through a bag of hell. It took us two years to realise what she'd been at. She'd told the kids things about me, she'd told my husband things about me. She liked what she saw and didn't see the work that went into getting it."

Sounds like a cuckoo to me. They're breeding rapidly. Watch your nest. You bought and paid for it. Keep the invaders out.