Man in the Middle – Chapter 23: Laurence Fox

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.23: Laurence Fox

My Wife and I regularly watch the police TV series ‘Lewis’. But I wouldn’t call us fans. Usually, we’ve forgotten by breakfast what we saw the night before and we often find ourselves half-way through an episode and realise we’ve already seen it.

We have a catch-phrase for this moment of déjà vu: ‘The professor. In the quod. With a signed copy of Gerald Manley Hopkins’ Collected Poems.’ The first to say it is excused a household chore of their choice the next day. It’s one of those little tropes which give meaning to marriage.

The fact we’re not really absorbed by ‘Lewis’ doesn’t undermine our commitment to the show, though. We watch it because it is one of a precious few TV shows we can easily agree to sit through together. It’s a pro forma trade deal which can be done quickly without facing any potential high-stake conflicts of interest and allows us to stay up beyond 9pm without having to acknowledge we have nothing more left to say about the day just gone or the one to come.

Laurence Fox, the actor, plays DS Hathaway in ‘Lewis’. In the series, he’s always seemed sensitive, even a forerunner of more woke men to come, but his real-life views on women and race are causing a furious furore. I haven’t followed what he has actually said, but he’s appearing on Top Gear, a programme which has always struck me as the propaganda wing of the Fossil Fuel & Patriarchy Party. So the women he’s angered may well have a point.

I’ve also heard Laurence self-identifies with broccoli. I’m not clear if this is ‘bants’ (as my kids call it) or a recognised condition (if that’s the right word) but he does have a broccoli icon on his Twitter feed. I once became obsessed with lentils, especially puy lentils, which I later realised was an early sign of my mid-life crisis brought on by early onset paunch, loss of hair and a growing sense of impending economic irrelevance. I wonder if Laurence’s identification with broccoli may have the same root causes?

I need to speak to my daughter about his views and the way he’s expressed them. She’s informed, intelligent and balanced. She will understand what the furore is all about and why he’s wrong to say he won’t date women under the age of thirty-five. She’s down from University for a job interview so tonight is the perfect the moment for me to get to grips with the issue.

When I suggest this to my Wife, she turns pale. She makes it plain to me that our marriage now hinges on me doing two simple things: first, never mentioning Laurence Fox again. Second, not asking my Daughter about his views on women the night before her job interview.

‘Are you an idiot? This man is poison to her generation. She’ll flip if you even bring his name up. She may not recover her focus in time for tomorrow’s interview.’

‘You’re right. She cried the night Donald Trump won the Presidency because it symbolised the triumph of toxic masculinity.’

‘Didn’t we all,’ she stares at me, as if I am hiding something.

‘Of course, we all did.’ I puff out my chest. ‘Which is why we must now take a stand with our daughter and women across the country.’

‘What on earth are you talking about?’ says my Wife.

‘We must follow through on our principles and boycott ‘Lewis’.’

‘Boycott ‘Lewis’? How will that help?’

‘Solidarity,’ I say.

‘But we’ve seen all nine series, already. Boycotting ‘Lewis’ is hardly a sacrifice or much of a political gesture.’

It’s not often that my wife shows even a faint flittering of panic, but her face is changing as she speaks. Something dreadful is dawning there.

‘How will we get through the evenings without ‘Lewis’?’ she asks me.

I put my arm around her.

‘Midsomer Murders. We’ve only seen eight series. That means we’ve got another 12 still to go.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 24: Goop

Read the previous one – Chapter 22: Rice Pudding

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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