Man in the Middle is the fictional diary of a Boomer coping with the demands of an ageing mother with dementia, his millennial children and his own impending obsolescence. Bowed down by Brexit, Covid and self-pity, all he wants is more ‘me time’. Will he succeed? Or is he destined to be stuck forever in No Man’s Land in the war between the generations?
If you’d like to begin at the beginning, you can read No. 1: The Letter here
No 88: An Offaly nice idea
I walk into the kitchen hoping for a quiet Sunday breakfast to discover that overnight Netflix have converted my kitchen into the film set for a new version of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.
There are people sitting and standing all over the kitchen. All the ceiling lights are on despite the bright May sun, which is shines through the open patio doors. The smell of burnt bacon pervades the room like a crime and the extractor fan is sucking up the acrid smoke like an anxious mosquito trying to cover up the evidence.
There are giggles, grunts and groans, everywhere. Broken eggshells, everywhere. Plates with bacon rind stuck in tomato ketchup, everywhere. Energy and noise, everywhere.
‘Mi casa es su farmyard,’ I mutter to myself, suddenly feeling both Bolshie and Boomerism.
Several young and groomed people are gathered at the table. They’re all busy shaking my breakfast cereals into their milk filled bowls, like misers eagerly emptying out someone else’s piggy bank.
‘Are there any Coco Pops left?’ I ask, pointing at a young man with a goatee beard, pouring my Coco Pops into his bowl.
‘Don’t think so?’ he says, as he rattles the box next to his ear. ‘No, none left.’
‘They’re my favourite breakfast cereal,’ I say.
‘Sorry, do you want to share mine?’ he says, as he lowers the tip of his goatee into the bowl of milk and hoists a spoonful of coco pops and chocolate milk towards his waxed and bearded mouth.
‘Not today, thanks,’ I say.
I look around for space to retire to and gather my wits. I don’t mind the children having people to stay. I don’t resent them having breakfast even if I am feeling a little cut up about the last box of Coco Pops being ransacked before I got a portion from it. It’s their liveliness I can’t stand.
I wanted 30 quiet minutes to rekindle the fire under my soggy Sunday Boomer metabolism with a cup of Monmouth coffee. I was looking forward to a gentle work out unpacking the dishwasher, a task which fills me with Puritanical pleasure, a task before which nothing else can happen in the morning.
Yeah, before the dishwasher is cleared, thou shalt not sip even the shortest draught from the teeniest cup of espresso coffee made by human hands. Nor shall you peek at the front page of the Sunday papers until the cutlery drawer is refilled with clean spoons.
As a child, I was brought up to believe work came before reward, pain before pleasure, main courses before puddings. It was old fashioned, I know, but Honore et Labore (honour through work) was the family motto.
Now I can see my attempts to pass on the family work ethic has failed. The dishwasher is still full, unloaded. Which means the kids have ignored the family motto and got stuck into breakfast before refilling the cutlery drawer.
Is this how they will always live? Like Mongols, forever moving carelessly from one house to the next leaving behind them empty boxes of Rice Krispies, half eaten sausages and unwashed Smoothie blenders?
Suddenly, the juicer, the coffee grinder, the Sonos and the kettle are turned on at the same time. It’s a cacophony of symphonic dimensions. My brain shrivels under the assault of noise like a slug sprinkled with salt.
‘What is that?’ I ask.
‘Jazz funk,’ says the young man standing next to the stove, obviously referring to the loud noise coming from the Sonos.
‘No, you fool, that,’ I say, pointing at four uncooked egg yolks wrapped in cling film which are lying on the kitchen next to a boiling pan of water. They look like the castrated orange testicles of two farm animals.
‘Poached eggs,’ he says.
‘Why not use the poacher?’
‘Because he ran away when we asked him,’ he says.
‘That’s a pretty poor joke,’ I say.
‘Sorry,’ he replies and drops the cling filmed eggs into a pan of swirling water.
‘I’ve been thinking about food,’ I say.
‘So, what’s new,’ says my wife, who has come down to the kitchen to join me and the remnants of the overnight posse.
‘I think we should plan our food better. Spend less on meat. Buy cheaper cuts. Head to toe eating. That sort of thing.’
‘Have you signed up for one of those budgeting lessons with that Tory idiot?’ asks one of the remnants.
‘Lee Anderson MP?’ says my daughter.
‘Yes. I did listen to that idiot. But that’s not what I mean.’
‘Is this ‘thinking’ of yours a specific and coherent proposal? Or is it one of your usual ‘ideas’ as in: ‘I’ve been meandering around the Google verse like a village idiot for an afternoon collecting random and disconnected ideas about environmental policy, food production and our family food budget which I’d now like to disgorge on you like a dumper truck unloading sand at a cement factory?’
‘The former,’ I say.
‘Let’s hear it then,’ she says.
‘This week I shall mainly be eating offal’
Someone at the far end of the table chokes on their coffee.
‘Is that a line from a comedy show,’ asks one of the remnants.
‘Yes, the Fast Show,’ I say rather proud that my children have friends who have such strong comic references.
‘Offal?’ says my wife.
‘Like kidneys?’ says my daughter.
‘Or liver?’ asks my son.
‘Or my personal favourite sweetbreads,’ I say.
‘Sweetbreads? Aren’t those essentially testicles,’ says one of the remnants.
‘No. Sweetbreads are the thymus. From the throat or the pancreas.’
‘I’m not keen on pancreas,’ says my daughter.
‘I’d rather go back to being a vegetarian,’ says my son.
‘Offal is cheaper than most meat, nutritious and delicious. It would be a sensible way for us to make a small contribution to reducing our carbon footprint and reducing food waste. Butchers can’t get rid of this stuff these days.’
‘I’m not surprised,’ says my son.
‘Are you sure they’re not testicles,’ asks my daughter again.
‘Certain,’ I say.
‘I’m out,’ says my wife, with a Deborah Meaden, Dragon’s Den look of contempt.
‘I don’t think you’re giving me a fair hearing. I feel like that Lee Anderson,’ I say.
‘You won’t get any sympathy that way,’ says my daughter.
‘It’s an offaly nice idea,’ says my son and the table titters.
I get up and start to unload the dishwasher.
‘Don’t patronise me,’ I say.
Read more blogs by James Thellusson
Read the next in the series – Man in the Middle 89: The Day of the Empty Nester
Read the previous one – Man in the Middle: Willy Wonka should run adult social care
See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here
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