Following the ceremonial eating of the last Christmas chocolate and the subsequent guilt, and its associated lack of self worth, I have decided to make a New Year’s resolution.
My family will, of course, place bets on how many days (or hours) my resolve will last but I will, in true 'only man in the house style', ignore them and press on.
I can’t decide whether to go for a positive resolution or a negative one because, as everyone knows, they fall into two groups. I could choose to word my new purposefulness as either ‘I will stop eating bad food’ or ‘I will start eating good food’.
Herein lies the problem; the jury is still out on what can be labelled as good or bad food. If I listen to the scientists I find that, although apples can be included as part of my 5-a-day fruit and veg requirement, the acid can also have a detrimental effect on my gums. Alternatively I could take notice of the health pages in the gossip magazines that I DON’T read for 5 minutes every morning before I leave the house. Actually, I read them just to make sure that my daughters are not being fed a distorted view of the world. The advice is generally woven around the idea that everything should be done in balance but, following an inner ear problem that was mistreated when I was a child, this too is a problem.
Perhaps the new-age multiple-choice gurus can offer an answer to my plight. They normally start by getting you to measure your current state by monitoring the condition of some random part of your body. ‘Know your knees, know yourself’ they tend to exclaim, whilst provided a handy map of the surface area of your patella in order that you might discover whether your mother ate mascarpone cheese during the fourth month of carrying you in her womb. They will then make an absolute statement about how this has lead to your inability to control your weight, without producing a scrap of evidence for such a claim. Pointing out that most people’s knees make an audible crack when they try to move to a standing position they will drive their persuasion home and you will find that you are unable resist.
So what, in the name of all that is chocolate, am I suppose to do if I cant even be sure which foods are good and which are bad.
The truth is that I am no more interested in eating less than I am in phoning in to answer one of those day time questions that appear just before the adverts on day time television. You know the type; ‘Name a Christmas character beginning with S who wears red and has a long white beard?’ Is it:
a) Santa, b) Satin or C) Santana
Even if I do try to win I won’t be sure that the producers haven’t switched off the phone lines before my entry is logged yet still charge me for the call. I wonder if the same things happened when you entered by post card; there might be sacks hidden around the country. This could be why I didn’t receive my Blue Peter badge in 1968 when I entered a painting competition.
My need to start a New Year’s Resolution is driven by two things: I have eaten so much chocolate I couldn't face anymore and, I have spent so much on food that I have no more money left even if I wanted to continue to over indulge. I need to remember for next year that Christmas lunch is just Sunday Dinner with party hats; that way I might not buy as much.
So after I have read the magazines articles on growing your own vegetables and seen the ‘Too fat to open your eyelids’ edition of Tricia, I check the condition of my knees and fall asleep on the sofa. With a chocolate smudge on my new white shirt and sweet wrappers resting on the ridge of my stomach I dream of successfully making and keeping a New Year’s resolution.
Some things have happened recently that have made me feel old. At first I was concerned but I now seem to have found a way of dealing with this revelation.
The first was during one of those quick shopping trips on the way home from work. I dashed around the isles getting the four urgent items and joined tea-time queue of other weary travellers in a similar position; all wondering why there was only one till open at such a busy time. I looked around the store at the other workers and had to wonder why folding empty cardboard boxes was more important than serving customers.
When it was my turn to be scowled at by the shop assistant I readied myself to pay and was asked to enter my PIN number. For the life of me I could not remember it. It had gone from my mind and I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I stood for a moment as if I was trying to understand the theory of relativity but nothing would come into my mind. I managed to pay for the few items with the collection of loose change I carry around with me because I am too lazy to empty my pockets.
I remembered the number just as I arrived home but that didn’t stop me worrying ever so slightly.
The next episode was whilst watching the telly. I had always been aware that TV viewing with older people can be a painful experience. My father had ruined many a good show by insisting that the quizzes were fixed and that none of what you see is true. Now it seems that he was right all along. I now watch the programmes with the same degree of cynicism and, in the process, annoy my own children.
‘Game shows are designed to make you feel guilty’ I explain to my long suffering daughters. The number of times the host says ‘The contestants will lose their chance to dance again next week unless you phone in and vote for them’ or ‘Their whole future in the jungle relies on your vote’. Apparently it is my fault that these celebrities don’t make it. Such pressure!
I say all this to my daughters and they look at me like I looked at my father; I know it is a sign of my youth slipping away.
The final example was fuelled by recent football events and the fate of the England team. I had watched the match against Croatia and felt more than sad at the outcome. My wife, noticing my malaise, tried to cheer me up by reminding me that it was ‘only a game’. This didn’t work even though she seemed to enjoy the conversation.
‘Now I will have to wait until the World Cup!’ I said trying to offer an explanation for my state of mind. Then it came to me that, even if I reach three score years and ten, I only have six World Cups left to enjoy.
Forgetting my pin number is one thing. Getting annoyed at the TV is another. Having only six of the most important football competition is just too big to cope with.
My wife, who also looked a little shocked at this, tried to come to my aid by reminding me that I do have the possibility of twenty three FA cup finals. It helped but I needed more!
‘How many premiership matches might I have?’ I asked, searching for comfort. A quick calculation showed that I had well over 800 to work with; all was not lost.
I started to breathe again and reflected on the fact that if you count all international matches, including friendlies, it is probably reaching nearly the thousand mark. By now I was on a role and working out other leagues and football competitions. It was good to feel young again. In fact my wife tells me that I haven’t ever really grown up, which I think was a compliment.
So my advice to you if you are feeling old is not count your life in World Cups; make the most of every game you can find.
Granddad has been with us for a few days leading up to Christmas. It is his chance to see the kids and to spoil them with the odd shilling. Just three years off ninety he has managed to keep both his mobility and much of his mental dexterity, meaning that the most fun we can have with him is over his gradual loss of hearing. He makes up for this lack by increasing the volume of both the TV and all of his conversations.
Perhaps it is because he wants to make the most of his time but these days he tends to rise early for breakfast; well before the rest of us have begrudgingly thrown our alarm clocks across the room.
Occasionally I will have to match him in greeting the sparrow’s song because of work commitments and have noticed that his deafness has lead to a lack in his ability to whisper. So he shouts his whisper to me from the foot of the stair, ‘Do you want a brew?’
‘No thanks, Sam, I am not thirsty’ I reply in true hushed tones for fearing waking the rest of the house.
‘Who’s Kirsty?’ he asks completely missing the point. Bless him.
He is a picture when we return from an evening out playing cards and sampling some local ale. He approaches the front door with his key ready and a firm instruction to me ‘to be quiet’, for fear of waking the whole house. Typically he tells me this in his not very quiet whisper.
Still having him around is fun even though he has his own special way of doing things.
A couple of evenings ago I was settled in for a night of watching pointless TV and eating comfort food when the old timer informed me that he was short of one Christmas card and would appreciate a trip to the super market to resolve this most urgent of problems. I wanted to quiz him on how much he liked the proposed recipient of this Christmas greeting but I chose to agree to a shopping trip because I was both running short of chocolate and couldn’t find a programme that didn’t have C list celebrities as the main attraction.
As we buckled our seat belts Granddad informs me that he had had the opportunity of buying a card for his collection when he was in town that afternoon but had refused to part with the £1.49 requested by the price sticker; he felt sure that he could get a suitable one for less than quid.
So we set off on our 5 mile journey to save my wife’s father 50p. I started to work out the cost of petrol for such an exercise but decided that the season demanded more kindness that I was currently feeling; that and the fact that my wife gave me a knowing look.
At the late-night supermarket we set off in different directions to complete our respective missions. My wife headed to the right and disappeared into a clothing section which brought me out in a mild panic. Sam went to inspect the vast selection of cards on offer and I went toward all things confectionary only to be side tracked by the electrical aisle. Why do they make these products so shiny and irresistible?
We met again on the way out and compared our purchases at which point Granddad confesses that he had not made a single purchase. ‘The choice is rubbish’, he says ‘And I am sure that I can get them cheaper else where’. It is not that he isn’t generous, he just likes to get good value.
It was at this point that I realised that the world is split into two types of people; those who will travel several miles to save 3p on a sliced loaf and those who have a life.
I wanted to explain this new theory to the old fella but was lead away by my understanding wife.
Eager to end this episode I encouraged our party to head for the car. ‘Come on Sam, Let’s get home I am getting thirsty’ I called.
‘Who’s Kisty?’ offered Sam in his own special way.
The decorating is coming along a treat and we have managed to work our way around paint pots and rollers to continue with normal life during the process. It has been my aim to limit most of the required work to applying several coats of emulsion and to resist any conversations about wallpaper.
It is not that I mind a bit of paper hanging it is just that you don’t have to worry about plumblines and matching patterns with vinyl silk. You are also spared the embarrassment off confirming to the world that you never learn to cut a straight line with scissors.
I was happy that my plan was coming together when out of the blue, and in the middle of a conversation with our daughters, my wife mentioned that she would like to have a feature wall in the lounge. I asked what one of these might be and was told that it was good taste to paper one wall in order to show some creativity. Apparently it should stand out from the other walls in order that the other colours might find their own voice. In the name of all that is woodchip what has the world come to?
Not satisfied with this homage to makeover programmes the girls started to talk about accessorising the room. I listened further and understood this to mean, amongst other things, that the collection of photographs marking the Molineaux girls’ changes in hairstyles would no longer hang on our walls. The pictures themselves were not the problem; it was the fact that none of the frames matched that caused concern.
‘Feature walls, accessorising, colours having a voice’, I mumbled as I went off to apply masking tape to anything that could not be moved.
The girls spent their time looking through photograph albums trying to agree on which pics would sit well on our bright, clean walls. You can probably imagine that such agreement was not easy to find.
Females never like any of their photographs; or if they do find one that is just about acceptable a sister will object that it is not a good one of them and therefore couldn’t possible be used. My wife was pleased with most of them but, caught up in the spirit of decorating, held them towards the emulsion to see if they clashed which I am not sure is a wholly acceptable way of judging your children.
Meanwhile I carried on applying a mixture of paint and loose hairs from the brush to the walls. I daydreamed of simpler times when colours had names like Post Office Red or British Racing Green and when it was acceptable to cover old work surfaces with sticky backed plastic.
I was drawn back to the conversation by the girls’ hysterical laughter and my need to feel included. They had found a family holiday photo that had captured their whole attention.
Daughter number one must have been around thirteen and it was obvious that a family vacation was not what she wanted to be involved in, let alone a group photograph.
Imagine the scene; the whole gang on the beach, all wearing our cossies and factor six million sun screen (Mrs M being a nurse a lecture on sensible sunbathing was always an important part of our holiday enjoyment). I had my traditional holiday hat to protect my bald patch from harmful rays.
With the bright sun, the blue sky and the golden sand it was a beautiful and colourful portrayal of family life. Except that is for Mrs Molineaux’s eldest; she was wearing black trousers, black shirt, black coat, and dark sun glasses.
It was as if the teenager had been superimposed on to the photograph after the event. Her whole manner, even her facial expression, shouted her disapproval at being with the family on holiday.
As we viewed the photograph she admitted to not being totally committed to the collective family experience that year. I tried to encourage her by saying that perhaps she was our ‘Feature Daughter’ in that she stood out from the others and allowed them to find their own voices.
As a youngster I enjoyed the usual practice of joining clubs of various types. I am not sure what it says about my character but I invariable stayed in each one just long enough to cause my parents the expense of buying the necessary uniform. Then, with hardly a grass stain on my cricket trousers or a bead of sweat on my judo outfit, I would leave.
So it was that I approached parenthood with a little nervousness; feeling sure that my mother’s grandchildren would take suitable revenge on my lack of stickability by dealing with me in similar manner.
We went through various dance and sports clubs and I am pleased to report that my girls must have inherited their mother’s ability to remain in a group for more than five minutes. So when our youngest daughter announced that she wanted to join the Scouts it was not my confidence in her ability to last the course that caused my concern, just her choice of club.
‘The Scouts only let boys join’. I explained in that over confident way that parents have when they feel sure that they know more than their offspring.
After an increasingly frustrating exchange I was un-nerved enough to phone a fellow parent only to find out that not only do they now allow girls to join but the leader was in fact a lady. You could have knocked my down with a woggle.
So it was that the youngest of our tribe became the first female in the Molineaux family to both dib and dob.
I knew, as all parents do, that such involvement in a club was not merely for the kids. There is a force at play that has been around for generations; one that no feeble Dad can resist. It is the momentum that makes you have to join in with some event that all your logic tells you can only end in tears.
It started on the way home in the car when Mrs Molineaux’s youngest informed me that the Scouts were going to raise money by abseiling down the church tower. I should have kept quiet, or at the very least told her to speak to her mother about it, but I feigned interest and was drawn into the trap. By the time we had reached home and her excitement had reached blue Smarty level I had agreed to take part.
The day came and the helpless parents were lead to the church hall with their energy filled offspring. We were given a brief lecture at which the phrase ‘accidents very rarely happen’ was slipped in almost un-noticed. I wanted to shout ‘Very rarely! What does that mean?’ but I was under orders not to embarrass my daughter.
The children went first and confident procession of eight and nine year olds, including daughter number, bounced down the side of the ancient tower. It was then our turn and I had the misfortune of following a Dad who must have been in the SAS in his part time because not only did he tell jokes on the way down but he went face first. I resisted the temptation to cut his rope and teach him a valuable lesson about showing off.
When it came to my turn it seemed that the crack team controlling all things rope-like were distracted by free pizza. Unsupervised I stuttered my way toward to ground until, about half way down, the equipment snagged meaning that although my top half kept going my lower body would not move. I hung up side down on a rope for a few minutes allowing the ‘helpers’ to enjoy their pizza.
Eventually, still the wrong way up, I was lowered to the ground to the applause of small children and the sniggers of other parents all of which was caught on video.
I showed the footage to my parents as evidence that my juvenile lack of commitment had done them both a favour; neither of them having to face the embarrassment of abseiling down a church tower or similar.
They were too busy laughing at the video to say thank you.