Man in the Middle – Chapter 21: New Year Resolutions

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.21: New year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are like donkeys at the Grand National.  They seldom reach the finishing line. But that doesn’t stop us liking donkeys or resolutions. They’re game little beasts that willfully ignore Einstein’s advice about insanity and do the same thing over and over again, regrouping every New Year’s Eve to plead like sirens: ‘Believe me. This year I will jump Becher’s Brook, I promise.’

Nine out of ten New Year’s resolutions are scrap metal by the middle of January, which makes them as reliable as a British made car of the 1970s, and pundits say the only way to succeed is to focus on one single mission, like a German car engineer obsessing on how to fix an emissions test.

Mother has embraced their advice. This year she has set herself only one goal, which is to stay alive. My Wife’s only hope for 2020 is that I remember our 25th wedding anniversary in time to do something about it and the children want new Wifi, which is doomed to failure because everybody knows there are no qualified electricians in London free before 2025 to do the necessary re-wiring.

‘How about we learn sign-language together this year, so Granny doesn’t have to keep buying useless hearing aids,’ says my Son.

Researchers call this a Family Resolution. It’s the equivalent of an accumulator in horse racing. A lot of stuff has to go right for you to win, but if it does you win big.

‘The problem is we can’t even agree on what to watch on Netflix. How will we agree on a Family Resolution?’ asks my Wife.

I disagree with the expert’s advice. I think their pedigree is questionable. I support diversification and have my own methodology – ‘The Aintree Method’ – which promotes starting each new year with at least five or six resolutions just as I always start the Grand National with five or more bets. The more resolutions the more fun, ditto Grand National bets. Why be puritanical with your annual dose of puritanism?

Of course, it’s only once your resolution sets off down the muddy lane of January’s fine intentions that you find out whether you’ve picked a thoroughbred or a donkey.  Some disappear quickly as if they suddenly recognise their own existential pointlessness. Most are just weak willed and give up after a cursory effort and head back to the stables, mumbling ‘I’ll give it another go next year.’

This year has been no exception. ‘Stop Swearing’ refused at the first. ‘Going Dry’ was leading until my birthday when it pulled up suddenly and ‘Veganuary’ looked like a stayer until mid-month, when we discovered Parmesan has animal rennet in it and we had to retrospectively disqualify ourselves. It felt like failing a drugs test.

(My Son has carried on Veganuary like a rider-less horse at the Grand National, who keeps on running for the thrill of it.)

It’s February. There are few resolutions still in the race. Miraculously, an electrician has been found and I still have time to sort the wedding anniversary, like a jockey waiting to break from the chasing pack. And far out front still is Mother, not jumping as well as before, but still eager for the race.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 22:  Rice Pudding

Read the previous one – Chapter 20: Musical Mothers

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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